Angie Newman Johnson Gallery at Episcopal High School
1200 North Quaker Lane, Alexandria, VA 22302
May 12 – June 14, 12015
For the past year or so, I have been marinating ideas and slowly producing work for a 3-person show called Call and Response. Liz Vorlicek invited the other two artists and me to collaborate on a show, and our similar interests in nature as both narrative subject matter and as a source of materials seemed an intriguing and inspiring match.
Here is Liz’s curator’s statement for the show:
“In music, call and response is a technique where one musician offers a phrase and a second player answers with a direct commentary or response to the offered phrase. The musicians build on each other’s offering and work together to move the song along and create a sound that’s inventive and collective.” When I ponder the process of call and response in visual art I become drawn in by the idea of generating a buzz of conversation in a gallery space. From the moment I asked these artists to show together, a wonderful interplay started to happen that I think was critical to the creation of some of these pieces in the scheme of each artist’s individual artistic practice. This back and forth between friends not only started the first notes of “What if?” for this exhibition but also generated the forward momentum to stay connected. Over the period of two years we engaged in a dialogue. It involved an exchange of ideas, stories posted on Facebook and tender morsels shared about our practice as artists and teachers and people in the world. A collaborative work is also in progress in the linear, wall construction called Call and Response. We are eager to watch it take shape and change during the duration of the show.
It has been fascinating watching the artists work on site from their respective mobile studios. I have experienced recycling at its finest in Elsabe Dixon’s tactile and gutsy, Hive sculpture; weaving in action with the delicate threads and linear elements that make up Jessica Beels’ environments and the explosion of color in the cornucopia of fiber and mixed media elements collaged together in Inga Hamilton’s mythical creatures. Thematically this exhibition is tied together with each artist’s unyielding desire to connect with her materials and to make a commentary through installation art and storytelling. The themes are unified under the umbrellas of fiber work and the building up of structure through repeated actions and elements. Each artist knows her materials in a way that harkens back to a time when most people actually knew how to make and repair things by hand: like darning a holey sock. Dixon’s, Beels’ and Hamilton’s practices are profoundly connected to the world of the craftsperson and re-define traditional practices like crocheting, net making and bee keeping through an evocative artistic inquiry. This connection and respect for the past is compellingly modern. The artists’ actions implore us to take notice, stay a while and learn something new. As viewers this is our invitation to connect with the work. It is our call and we are invited to respond with questions, “AH HA!” moments and perhaps a broad smile or furrowed brow.”
In addition to work we each produced individually, we installed a wall piece using materials gathered from all three artists’ stash and building by successive additions, one artist after the other, in a responsive cycle – a sort of 3D collage. This piece is about play, light, time and transformation. Because Inga lives in N. Ireland and was unable to make it “across the pond” to participate in person, we held video meetings with her to get her input on what to add where in the responsive piece, as well as feedback on our installation of the other pieces.