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'Stasis And Change': Art flows from wellspring of covid solitude

by Lara Jo Hightower | May 23, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Jay McDonald, “Wrapped in Wisteria”

In a spring when many of us find ourselves on the precipice of leaping back into normal life after a year spent isolated from our normal routines, Art Ventures President Sharon Killian says the art collective's new exhibit theme, "Stasis and Change," hits the bulls eye for the times we find ourselves in.

"From my perspective, everything we do is relative to the pandemic," notes Killian. "Even the idea of reopening with caution has been very challenging, because we became used to not seeing people or not being able to be fewer than six feet apart from one another, even staying home instead of going out. The shift in our culture from what was required to keep our health (or lives) to reopening the gallery for a communal experience with art was definitely the impetus for the exhibition title."

And whether their art reflected "stasis" or "change," says Killian, was up to each artist.

"Because I understand that everyone is different, the parameters were very broad for artists," she says. "Some artists were in stasis in their studio practice in the same way they survived through the trauma of our worldwide cultural life, while some artists were churning their art to survive."

Killian says artists featured in the exhibit were selected with an eye toward those 50 members of the collective whose work had not been shown recently.

"Since, as people and practitioners, we fall across the spectrum of stasis to change, I thought we would be able to create a vibrant exhibition," she says. "Cheryl Kellar seemed to physically produce every day, if not complete works, then tons of sketches. Her life and practice seem to survive and thrive through change. I was thrilled to see the work presented by Jay McDonald, who, after a year of lockdown, presented iconic images of places we might have dreamed to visit during the past year -- 'Antelope Canyon,' 'Rainy Day in Chile,' 'Up on the Roof in New Delhi.' They say we will make it through stasis and through change. Both ends of the spectrum bring me hope."

Kellar says her experiences of the last year are well represented in the nine pieces exhibited.

"The Christmas a few months before the pandemic, my sister and I went to New York together," she says. "I found so much inspiration there that carried me into the early months of the pandemic. Then came the reminiscences and the desire to throw myself on the floor and have a temper tantrum (there were several of those times during the past year). And then just masking up and doing what I could. All of that is in this exhibit."

Eight of artist Hannah Jeremiah's color-filled ink-on-paper creations are featured.

"This exhibit's theme makes me think about the way that covid has really changed many people's daily lives, but it has also made people stay home, stop moving and actually spend time alone -- maybe to find a different kind of stability that they knew before," she explains. "This has made people a lot more introspective and emotionally vulnerable. When I do get to talk to people, they are a lot more genuine and open than people used to be. It feels like having to stay home made people shed a lot of the layers of personality people build up to avoid having to be really vulnerable with another person."

Kellar, Jeremiah and sculptor Cheryl Buell, who has nine works of art in the exhibit, all say that the pandemic has brought about creative change in their artistic lives.

"I think my art has changed a lot in the past year," says Jeremiah. "I've been a lot more able to put my experiences into words, rather than allowing them to continue circulating through my psyche as images and body sensations. Most of my work is text-based now, and I think I might begin writing under a pen name. I think the experiences I'm making work about are very difficult for a lot of people to talk about, but there is something about having the ability to hide behind a screen that makes me feel able to be more vulnerable and emotionally honest. There is something about not having to actually talk to people in person that has allowed me to show work I thought I would keep secret. I'm really excited about the way technology might impact artists going forward. I think people can be a different person on the internet, potentially a more authentic version of themselves than people are allowed to be at work or in school."

"Since early in 2021, I have been joining in with groups of models and artists and fashion illustrators from around the world several times a week via Zoom," says Kellar, who says fashion has been a lifelong interest for her. "That has been the surprise silver lining. Some days, I will be sitting in my studio in Fayetteville, Arkansas, connecting with a host in New York City who has brought a model to us from Japan or India or some other place around the globe, artists from every continent joining in to share a couple of hours of creativity together. Perhaps because we cannot all gather in one room, the relationships made over months of shared experiences in our daily lives and in our few hours together over a computer screen, with music and art and fashion, have formed quickly and with great meaning and respect. I like to think so anyway. It's still fashion and art and art and fashion for me all the time, but now with broader horizons from my small studio space."

"Actually, covid-19 pushed me into my studio for longer hours," says Buell. "I was not going anywhere or seeing anyone, so it became my place of refuge and sanity. Overall, I became more motivated, because I needed to do something in order to feel like I wasn't wasting away. These times impacted my artistic direction, as my work tends to be a direct reflection of what is going on in my life and of the animals and people around me. With the weight of the world, my work became heavier and more emotionally burdened. As we turn the corner of the pandemic and more vaccines are administered, I hope to see more lightness shine through my work as hope refills the air."

Hannah Jeremiah, “June 2016”
Hannah Jeremiah, “June 2016”
Zeek Taylor, “You Gotta Have Friends”
Zeek Taylor, “You Gotta Have Friends”
“A lot of the work I’m making right now is about the power dynamics of school, and the way that sexualizing a person’s body socializes them into submission to authority,” says artist Hannah Jeremiah. ” I feel like covid has given me the time and space to deal with a lot of my own trauma. Engaging with people through a screen has eroded a lot of the unspoken power dynamics that emerge in everyday interaction between people; and it makes me feel like I’m able to be a more genuine version of myself and make work that communicates something I might otherwise be afraid to say. The combination of time to make new work, and the ability to avoid having to talk about my work in person, has really changed my relationship to my body. It’s like I can say things in my work I would never be able to speak out loud.”

(“My Seventh Grade Teacher” by Hannah Jeremiah; $300, ink on paper)

(Courtesy Photo)
“A lot of the work I’m making right now is about the power dynamics of school, and the way that sexualizing a person’s body socializes them into submission to authority,” says artist Hannah Jeremiah. ” I feel like covid has given me the time and space to deal with a lot of my own trauma. Engaging with people through a screen has eroded a lot of the unspoken power dynamics that emerge in everyday interaction between people; and it makes me feel like I’m able to be a more genuine version of myself and make work that communicates something I might otherwise be afraid to say. The combination of time to make new work, and the ability to avoid having to talk about my work in person, has really changed my relationship to my body. It’s like I can say things in my work I would never be able to speak out loud.” (“My Seventh Grade Teacher” by Hannah Jeremiah; $300, ink on paper) (Courtesy Photo)
John Rankine, “Blind Faith”
John Rankine, “Blind Faith”
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