Juror's Statement by Brooke Seidelmann
Is it possible to relive the past by recreating it in the present? In reviewing over 200 works submitted to the Torpedo Factory's Target Gallery in my role as juror, I came to realize that this was the central question artists faced in creating works for the show Homage.
Although the range of artists is broad and their works are varied, the artists largely fall into two categories: 1) those who use art as a medium in an attempt to pay homage to their own pasts; and 2) those who pay homage to artists of the past by reviving their works to interpret the present. Two works that fall within the first category are Diane F. Ramos' "Untitled (Babushkas)" and Matthew Hall's "Disappointments." Like a ghostly apparition, "Untitled (Babushkas)" 's delicate cheesecloth forms seem as though they may vanish in a blink, leaving the viewer scared to close her eyes for fear of losing what once was. "Disappointments" appears as though it may be a lost love letter or journal entry, a weaving of illegible words scribbled together revealing a portrait of lovers. Yet, when broken into its formal elements the portrait unravels into mere words, only threads of a moment that is now lost. Both of these and other artists attempt to pay homage to their pasts by reliving their experiences in the present. However, as their media and styles reveal, fully reconstructing the past from elements of the present may be impossible.
In the other spectrum are the artists who to pay homage to our shared, cultural history's masters -- Dali, Matisse, Mondrian, Lichtenstein, Manet, and Cezanne -- by using their works as a tool to understand and tell stories from the present. In Helen Zughaib's "Eye of the Beholder," the artist co-opts Roy Lichtenstein's comic-book, pop art style to engage a contemporary dialogue on Eastern vs. Western notions of beauty. Similarly, in Brenda Oelbaum's "Falling all Over" the artist herself embodies the Venus of Willendorf draped over diet books to make a biting commentary on our cultural obsession with weight. These artists demonstrate that although gone, the past can be revived to illustrate and understand the present.
Both sets of Homage artists attempt to answer the central question through distinct approaches; yet, when viewed together their works lead the viewer to realize that although we cannot recreate the past, it can always be used to inform the present.
Brooke Seidelmann is the director of DC's Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, located in the vibrant U St. corridor and part of the larger community center, Smith Center for Healing & the Arts. The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery is a non-profit art space dedicated to engaging community dialogue by featuring contemporary artists who address significant themes, such as social change, identity, spirituality, and environmentalism, to name a few. Complementing the gallery, Brooke is currently developing an Art Advisory service, which will incorporate evidence-based design principles and offer primarily corporate and healthcare facilities with artwork stimulating inspiration and healing. In 2011, Brooke was co-director of the citywide arts initiative, The 9/11 Arts Project, which brought together over 30 DC arts organizations to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with multi-genre programming. She received her Masters Degree in Art History and the Market at Christies’ Auction House, and has worked in galleries in New York City and Charleston, SC