Zane Bennett Contemporary Art is pleased to announce an exhibition of paintings, works on paper and collaborative photographs on aluminum by artists Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes. The artists will be present at the opening on Friday, August 30th at the gallery, 435 South Guadalupe Street, across from the rail station, from 5:00-7:00 pm., to coincide with the Railyard Arts District Last Friday Art Walk.
In the tradition of land art and Andy Goldsworthy, Susan Davidoff and Rachelle Thiewes have collaborated on site specific installations which have resulted in this exhibition and a book, Common Language, as well as a video. Their first collaboration was in 1999 when they created a Beauty/Chaos book project; another in 2004 was an installation that involved air patterns, color and transparent layers. The artists consider their third effort their purest collaboration. In this collaboration, a common language was found in the natural forest and desert environments where seamless installations were created.
This body of work originated from a residency that the artists attended together in Fiskars Village located in Finland in 2009 and in El Paso, where both artists reside. Davidoff describes the way in which “One is connected with nature and the place we occupy in a natural way, the way in which nature, architecture and culture intersect.” Although the artists had no preconceived idea of what they would do, the project revealed itself as an intervention with the natural setting. The artists inserted man-made materials such as sheets of gold leaf, fishing weights, and clay footprints, into the environment to draw specific attention to elements in the landscape or how the landscape was used in the past. For example, in Riisila Aqueduct 9.18, 2009, they suspended gilded fishing weights from the sides of the defunct aquaduct to remind us of the water that once flowed through it. The artists focused on the interaction between natural and man-made environments where beauty versus intervention was the overriding interest.
When the artists returned to the dry Southwest from Finland, they were astonished by luxurious growth in the desert. Forest fires had swept through the Davis Mountains, outside of El Paso, Texas activating dormant seeds through scarification and new plants that had not been seen before were flowering. For collectors who are interested in the plant world, the sense of regeneration was again a manifestation of beauty versus intervention.
In Susan Davidoff’s works on paper, she records her daily interactions with the landscape through her plant silhouettes. This work explores the structure in nature where the artist maps and defines natural forms and phenomena. This use of elements reflects Davidoff’s interest in the Chinese concept of Li. Li is the Chinese idea of organic pattern and is a way of examining perception, preconception and relationship with the natural environment. Davidoff uses organic materials that she gathers from her walks. She has a cache of dirt samples from the desert and she rubs dirt, powdered graphite, moss and flower petals, as well as silver leaf and more, into her paper. Although some colors from the plants may fade, micaceous dirt keeps its sparkle. Red or cochineal, is the artist’s favorite color which comes from the residue a beetle leaves on prickly pear cactus. The pigment is separated from the residue. Mexico is a prime source for this pigment. Beeswax may also be used to embed the organic material into the handmade papers.
Davidoff’s choice of using the silhouettes from plants is an aesthetic concept that allows her to abstract the plants and transform the compositional space. Her works on paper become the metaphoric landscape of walking the desert trail.