Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Child's Play

We arrived at the Artists' Lab sneaking nervous glances towards the closed door of the gallery, curious to see the work Robyn has been busy organizing for the gallery opening this week. After warning us that the arrangement is still subject to change she allowed us to wander through and marvel at the range and quality of the work that came out of our group. Text and statements are still pending so this evening we could react on solely a visual level. 

In the gallery Alison Morse directed our attention to her work which is a collaboration with local artist Rachel Breen. The installation includes Breen's sculptures and two prose poems by Alison in the form of letters, one from a Rana Plaza factory worker, and one from a Triangle Shirtwaist factory worker. Her final portion has yet to be formed with both our assistance and that of those attending the exhibition. With that input she will create a written piece that she will read at the closing. She poses such questions as "What do the clothes you're wearing right now look like? Where were they made? What do you usually do when you wear them? Other questions are more pointed, addressing our sense of connection to the two disasters. Do we think about the source of what we wear and the people who make it? From the audience responses she will weave a cloth of words. 

We then heard from Avigail (Avi)Manneberg, our Artist in Residence about both the work that she has done previously and how her new work has developed in the context of this show. Avi had a rather full plate this year as she was creating a baby during the early part of the lab even as she was also creating a new body of work.
Avi’s past work has focused on the sunflower, a subject that her grandmother, also an artist, had often painted. Avi grew up near fields of sunflowers and remembers gathering sunflowers to bring to her grandmother to paint. She became intrigued with the sunflower,especially its seedpods, as a symbol of potential and began to incorporate them into her work.

Interestingly her earlier work was not in color, but rather in black and white. She shared work with us that made use of canvas coated with gesso to form large sculptural forms with seed pods embedded in their folds. Similarly she used sunflower seeds painted black to form grids, pointing out towards the viewer.

In her current work she asked herself the question of what is her light? Just as the sunflower follows the sun, what does she follow? She found that if she looked close by she found her own light in her family. Avi’s work became a collaboration of sorts with her young daughter who would start a line drawing which Avi would use as the underlying structure for her painting in oil pastels. Now working in color she created forms that looked very akin to her earlier seedpods. When I looked at her work I saw a lyricism and playfulness that invited the viewer in. She laughed that her daughter sometimes protested when she wanted her help in starting a drawing. Perhaps she’ll have to begin training her newest child to step in as her own personal Artist in Residence.

We then turned our attention to a display that will occupy the hallway outside of the gallery. We were given grids that will fasten into a frame and working with the theme of light, built them out into shimmering images replete with stained glass, shiny objects and imagery of light. Using the quotes on light that we had discussed at our retreat, we were asked to align the images with the most appropriate quotes. Robyn will then mount the grids and quotes on the wall as a display to accompany the gallery exhibition.

Read more about the work of both of our arts facilitators at TCJewfolk.
To view information on lab artists and lab discussion links and handouts, please go to the Jewish Artists' Laboratory website.

*The Jewish Artists’ Laboratory is an arts initiative through the Sabes Jewish Community Center featuring 25 artists exploring the theme of Light through study and art making. The project is funded through The Covenant Foundation and similar projects are being done in both Milwaukee and Madison. Artists explore how the theme of Light is relevant to Jews and non-Jews, to religious and non-religious, to the community and to the individual, to the artist and the non-artist.

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