The Nathan Larramendy Gallery is pleased to announce, Watershed, a group exhibition featuring the work of current MFA candidates at Virginia Commonwealth University. The gallery will host an opening reception on Saturday, February 2, 5 – 7 pm. The exhibition dates are February 2 – February 29, 2008.
How did it happen? Eight out of eight. All women. Whatever the reasons, the current MFA candidates at Virginia Commonwealth University constitute a welcome inversion of the typically male dominated art and academic worlds. One thing is certain: it was not the result of affirmative action; the strongest applicants just happened to be female. Nor is it all that surprising, considering the proliferation of women artists making some of the best work today. What sets this group apart, especially with the current climate of dog-eat-dog competition, is the manner in which they behave as a unit, an old-school gang, despite their diverse backgrounds and points of view. Amid their individual triumphs and adversities, they embrace each other to move forward collectively, revealing a profound sensitivity to the issues and concerns of the world around them. Each of their contributions stands squarely on its own, but the collective exhibition of their work demonstrates how entire creative communities come into being and flourish: with the right combination of talent and luck. The fact that they are all women merely makes this transformation more vivid.
A watershed is an area of land separating individual rivers or seas. Think of it as a stable medium between flowing bodies of water. This group of artists hails from across the North American continent, from California to Connecticut, Kansas City to Mexico City. Their fateful union as members of a tightly knit artistic community has consolidated their diverse perspectives into a single powerful force. Though they will inevitably continue to follow their own paths, this period - this body of work - marks something that can also be called a watershed: a significant turning point in the state of affairs.
Text by Calvin Burton
Carmen Mcleod’s paintings and drawings investigate the relationship between the material and the image. While evoking an intersection of current events with historical and personal narrative moments, she restages the discourse of painting’s relationship to photography through the lens of digital mass media, breathing into it a new and richly problematic life, laced with anxiety and nostalgia.
Valerie Molnar is interested as well in art history, though she enters through the backdoor, subversively knitting her way towards a view of the Modernist legacy that is both critical and celebratory. Her chromatic yarn constructions confront the medium with fresh insight, playfulness, and skill; and, as with a great cartoon, the work manages to be light and heavy, familiar and foreign, at the same time.
If Alexis Semtner’s relationship to painting is ‘love-hate’, then she invariably lands on the side of love. In her canvases, meaty passages of impasto literally break the picture plane only to recede seamlessly back into the two-dimensional. The imagery is both jocular and grotesque, hovering between the mechanical and the biological, the micro- and the macro-. Meanwhile, the paint forms its own body that appears to come to life and disintegrate before your eyes.
Theresa Marchetta, on the other hand, prefers the plastic luminescence of acrylic mediums to oil. Her paintings conceal and reveal a series of alchemy-like transformations: the interior of a cave becomes an artificial soundstage; plastic and wood transmute into a mosaic of scintillating jewels and swirling eddies. Though the imagery is largely taken from nature, the work eschews ‘naturalism’ in the traditional sense, drawing attention instead to the mediated modes through which we interact with our environment.
Amy Chan is another artist invested in the relationship between ‘real’ nature and the human version of it, posing the question: is there a difference? In her works on paper, abandoned suburban structures blend with the detritus of past great civilizations in an overgrown Technicolor wasteland. Drawing from Chinese screen painting, miniatures, Audubon illustrations, and kitsch wallpaper patterns, she creates an unsettlingly bucolic post-apocalyptic vision of the American dream.
Jessica Langley likewise draws enigmatic connections between nature and culture. Her carefully rendered depictions of flora and fauna drift into an ethereal ebb and flow of inky viscera, overgrown with pastel hues and weeds. Shifting languidly between abstraction and representation, her work reflects both nature’s emotionally neutral concept of death and a quasi-mystical vision of re-generation and rebirth that is entirely human in its ambivalence.
Others pull more explicitly from their own biographies as a conceptual platform. Brooke Inman methodically organizes her thoughts, memories, and dreams into a collection of drawn texts that read like haiku and evoke passages lifted from a child’s personal diary. Her drawings, sculptures, and performances come from an intimate self-dialogue, which conveyed through the lens of deceptively simple phrases and images, becomes a far-reaching portrait of contemporary hope and vulnerability.
Mónica Palma is equally invested in the relationship between the personal and the collective. Her large drawings begin as meditations on the idea of repetition, as experienced in her memory and daily life, and end as a nexus of complex patterns. Though the ideas behind them come from the most personal of places, the drawings themselves are sophisticated abstractions that encourage a purely phenomenological viewing experience. Referring visually to nothing but itself, the work draws an elegant circle between infinity and zero.