Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Art: Haunted by the art
Michelle Amos and Todd C. Smith collaborate for Zephyr Gallery exhibit
Even before Michelle Amos opened up her new installation at Zephyr Gallery, people were trying to get in. “It took about a week to install, and while I was working, people walking by would stop and knock and try to come in,” she says. It is easy to see, even from the other side of Market Street, why people were interested in getting into Zephyr Gallery to see “Haunt,” Amos’ installation and collaborative exhibition with artist Todd C. Smith.
Amos transforms the downstairs gallery space completely — strips of coffee-dyed muslin cloth covering the walls suffuse the air with an ambiguous organic scent, the stalactite and stalagmite shapes of her woven sculptures undulate and soften the neat corners and sterile walls. Chains of honey locust pods flow over the wood floor planks like silent currents. Her organic woven sculptures, which at times resemble tree trunks, intestines, wasp nests and underwater volcanoes, hang from the ceiling and emerge from the walls, wrapping through the space and suggesting their continuation into the ceiling, the floor and up the stairs.
Inspired by a master class with artist and noted feminist Judy Chicago a decade ago, Amos took up Chicago’s challenge to circumvent the convention that men are associated with technology and architecture, and women with the natural world and decorative arts. Given that prompt, Amos aimed to transform an architectural/urban space into her interpretation of a natural setting — namely, the flooded Ohio River.
Moving from smaller-scale sculptures she made during her time in residency at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft in 2010 into a larger installation seemed only natural. “This show at Zephyr really allowed me the freedom to develop the individual works into a full-scale installation,” she explains. Instead of a viewpoint on an individual object, the observer is placed inside the object — a natural evolution of her previous sculptural explorations.
Up the stairs, her sculptural triptych “Ohio River Rising on a Tree Line” sets the stage for the transition to photographs by Todd C. Smith, whom she met while they were in residency in 2007 at the Mary Anderson Center. While Amos’ work is based on the preposition of a flooded river, Smith’s work explores the fantastic notion of a race of men forced to live symbiotically in trees due to flooding. His dark, small-scale photographs, the size of postcards, dot the walls of the upstairs gallery. In them, a dark figure in a tear-shaped sling is illuminated against a forest of naked, winter trees. The figure of the artist silhouetted against the dark background is as beautiful as Vermeer’s pearl earring, the intimacy and mystery emphasized by the unusually high hanging of the work on the gallery walls, which causes the viewer to stand on her toes to see into them.
Eerie and strange, the works, photographed by Natalie Biesel, were taken in secluded locations in Cherokee Park in February and March and offer a compelling contrast to Amos’ work. Cleverly located above her open and enveloping installation, Smith’s challenging, small-scale works stand in contrast to Amos’ in both form and content — like haiku to novel.
Smith, whose work often revolves around the relationship of people and trees, is the yang to Amos’ yin — he is re-imagining the habitation of nature by the masculine in the way Amos is re-imagining the urban transformed by the feminine. Both make compelling and complementary arguments for shifting our interpretation of our surroundings, prompting the viewer to picture a future in which we interact with nature in a more intimate and direct manner.
The artists’ inspiration for the title “Haunt” comes from the dual definition of the word: as a noun, it can mean a place often visited; as a verb, it connotes a person who often visits a place. A solid and successful collaboration by two artists that should not be missed, “Haunt” is an exhibit of both substance and considerable magic.
‘Haunt’ by Michelle Kellond Amos
& Todd C. Smith
Through May 14
610 E. Market St. • 585-5646
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I also want to thank the people who have continuously supported my work through their hard work and volunteerism, Scott Henderson (ADI Studio), has done the photography and installation for most of my shows through out the past seven years. Terri Wunderlich, for child care and installation, Jocelyn Moore, and Greg Acker (boats).
My desire to depict my natural surroundings in a gallery setting goes back ten years ago when I did a class with Judi Chicago. In one of her lectures, Chicago talked about how we live in a male-dominated Western society that places priority on technology and building over being good stewards to our natural environment. She viewed this as an imbalance in power between men and women –men being associated with technology and building, women being associated with nature. As a Women Studies minor/Fiber Arts major, her words and ideas left a strong impression on me and my work, which have included themes in feminism, the natural landscape, and processes often associated with women.
In late 2009, after taking a year and half break from working in my studio I wanted to revisit ideas from my first show at Zephyr, Costumes and Vessels that included an installation of stalactite/stalagmite vessels. At the time I was still hung up on the idea of vessels, womb/women, as a form to depict the natural world, but was no longer interested in generalized landscape images. I was nurturing a desire to create a whole environment that would convey my own fantastic impressions, overwhelming feelings of comfort and importance about the specific natural landscape surrounding Louisville. So in January of 2010 I created the Ohio River Rising on a Tree Line pieces (upstairs) and applied for a residency at The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. I was interested in the residency because of it’s proximity to the Ohio River and wanted a supporting environment to work out my ideas. Early in my five month stay at the museum, I attended a lecture by Judy Pfaff, which inspired me to make the full commitment to doing an installation that transformed my whole environment, not just dabbled.
During my residency, Todd Smith had visited my studio, I had wanted him to see the work because his work is closely tied to nature and specifically trees. Later, after I moved back into my home studio, Todd had asked me to view one of his pieces he had done focused on the flooding of the Ohio River. When an opportunity for us to show at Zephyr came up, I approached him about doing a conceptual collaboration on visually depicting a long-term flooding of the Ohio in the gallery space. We talked about how the downstairs would describe the results of an event causing the river to stay flooded, (what my work was evolving into) and the upstairs would describe how humans had evolved into living in trees again. From that point our beginning concepts have evolved independent of each other. Although I’ve stayed with our original concept, for my installation portion I became less concerned about just showing a flooded room and more concerned with transforming a whole environment that conveys the fantastical and sometimes close feelings I have revisiting the natural landscape in our area.Haunt opens Friday, April 1, 2011, 6-9pm at Zephyr Gallery, 610 East Market Street. Gallery Hours are 11am-6pm, Wed-Sat. Artist Talk and Reception is scheduled for Thursday, April 14, 2011, 6-9pm. Closing Reception is scheduled for Friday, May 6, 2011, 6-9pm.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
This is one of his "nest" pieces he is constructing out of cuttings from the Crape Myrtles in my front yard. I knew I had been saving these cuttings, done over a year ago, for something.
The images below are the installation going on inside my studio and are my work. Unlike the installation/environmental piece I did at the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, this piece involves me weaving back into the strips hanging from the wall.
All of the images in this post are a small example of the work being done for a much larger environmental installation going up at Zephyr Gallery in March. This whole process, much like other shows, can be frustrating, exciting, and disappointing at times. Like many other artists working on large-scale pieces I couldn't do it without the support of other organizations, family, and close friends. -more on that in next post. Todd and I will be doing a gallery talk in mid-April 2011 about our process for this show.