Friday, June 4, 2010

Constellations of Women: Emily Vigil at Anderson Creative

Okay….I will say it because somebody has to…women are the stars of this show. Come on stop groaning, it is a line handed to me on a platter and goodness knows I can’t pass up a good pun. On that note, Anderson Creative continues its tradition (been around long enough to have traditions now!) of showcasing work and artists that need a space conducive to the display of ambitious projects.

Emily Vigil has been working on this installation for years. The concept was born (speaking of which, she will be a new mom in September which is the greatest art project of all!) from three events in her life that converged into one idea to celebrate the women who have influenced her life. One can read all about it on the large wall statement posted at the end of the installation. I am liking this large wall statement stuff, it makes it so much easier to read and relate to as opposed to passing out paper ones or having that tiny type on the wall and trying to read it while some guy who just ate garlic is crowding in as well.

The installation is comprised of hexagonal “stars” connected by blue painters’ tape then arranged into morphed versions of actual constellations. A star chart is posted but good luck on matching the layouts. Allotted space dictated some installation constraints but Emily did point out Draco and I could go from there. The tape contains writings that are closely akin to stream of consciousness thoughts (I knew James Joyce would come back to haunt me someday….should have avoided the Cliff notes) which are sometimes difficult to read due to the reflective nature of the pen, the height of the tape or just the disjointed thoughts, but then again, women are difficult to read too so I like the connection. I found a couple of phrases that could become potential paintings for my own work…”When you buy your house, make sure it has a gossip fence” and “she had had a choice among several lives”, which are just a sampling of the text found between the images on the stars.

The rest of the gallery (Anderson was keeping secrets) are works by the women who contributed stars to the main installation. My only criticism is that I would have liked to have had a star from the galaxy behind me, included with each of the artist’s works on the surrounding walls so that I could make a connection between the two. These other pieces on view certainly contain several shining stars of their own (yes, I am going to milk this any way I can!).

Katherine Cox’s drawings are wonderful. The images made out of graphite, handmade paper and kozo paper show a distinct talent for observational detail as well as the merging of media so as not to overwhelm any of them. Sandra Thouvenin (I apologize if I spelled it wrong, Joseph made sure I had a glass of wine as soon as I walked in the door so balancing that with a book and a pen can lead to misspellings…always good to blame somebody else isn’t it?) had a porcelain dish of tiny bones laid out like sushi. Chipmunks and other small rodents were well represented. Her linocut “Dead Bird” really caught my attention however as again; it was a superb blend of scale, texture and purpose from the decaying frame to the frayed edges of the paper upon which it was printed.

Other bright spots to seek out (I’ll groan for you, saves time), are Claudia Berlinski’s relief prints on the back wall, Stacie Marie Leech’s “Small Dress #2” construction and Jody Hawk’s large photographs of hidden places. There are also a few pieces I just don’t get personally, but if we all liked the same thing, how boring would that be? Just because one does not relate to a piece does not mean it can’t be appreciated and used as a learning experience. Binary code knitting for example, that takes skill and some mental gymnastics of which I just would not have the patience, plus I flunked knitting every time my Grandmother tired to teach me. I got pretty good at embroidery and such which is why I found Clare Murray Adams’ constructions so intriguing. The first piece in the door has a tiny label on it that many girls now-a-days would not understand. We older ladies who had to take home economics in junior high (cooking in 7th, sewing in 8th) would buy labels that said “Made especially for you by….” I still have a roll of them in my sewing box (vintage late 60’s)so when I found one on her sculpture along with the blanket stitched edges and wayward zippers, it sparked memories of the women who tormented me back then (I’d say taught but Mrs. Davidson was more a witch than a wizard). Just such a relationship is what this overall exhibition is about, making connections between women in our lives so therefore it worked! (Remembering some women in my life would provoke more shooting stars than constellations however….where is Craig with that second glass when I need it?)

Back to the main installation of the Constellations however, since that is top billing here. It is best viewed standing back for an overall impression as it is a rather complicated construction (like all women truly are). Don’t take it all in too quickly, look at the individual images which contain many old photographs now presented as cyanotypes on wood (cyan meaning blue and women feel blue a lot too not that my comment has anything to do with the choice of color), and then spend some time with the rest of the pieces. The overall presentation of these works are well done in regards to use of space, color and scale (Craig and Kevin understand their environment which I have pointed out before and it shows through each time) as well as the use of labels. I just wish I had a little hexagon by each artist to remind me to connect to the image behind me more directly. I guess I wanted to know who said their house needed a gossip wall.

Emily Vigil has succeeded in making visual what is often done in literature or chick flick movies; she has paid tribute to the females who paved our own pathways. I am sure that once she settles into the whole new mom thing, this project will take on even more significance in her personal life and I suspect that sometime down the road (that path just got bigger didn’t it), a second hemisphere of constellations will be mounted on these very walls. Until that happens, don’t miss the current one…and one more thing, go call your Mom and thank her for putting up with you. If she is now only a star in the sky, then say a prayer.

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