Oliver Coley, our summer intern from Smith College, wrote the following perspectives on our current WPG exhibit Distant Voices. You can read more perspectives from Oliver on Friday, July 25, with a post on the July Membership Show.
Distant Voices, which opened on Saturday, July 6th, features the distant members of the gallery, and as I walked around the room the work of several artists immediately stood out to me. The first was a series of prints floating in their frames, by Heather McMordie. In McMordie’s Not Made for Each Other I, the hand-cut elements follow the imprint of the woodgrain. With the segments of parallel gaps in the background layer, and the intricate overlapping branches and leaves, the print takes on a fibrous quality, appearing to be almost woven together. In Not Made for Each Other II, the branches of the dark trees curve and interconnect like delicate spiderwebs against the warm yellow background. In this print, instead of highlighting the woodgrain, the cut-out portions mirror the marbled white spaces of the background layer, appearing as swirling shapes like rising smoke. To the right, Not Made for Each Other III, centers in on the rings and cracks of the woodblock. On the bottom right corner of the print, the white spaces and cut-out portions seem to emulate human figures, overlapped by ruddy floral shapes. From the layers of tree and flower-like shapes, to the way she allows the woodgrain to dictate certain elements of each piece, all four prints in this series emulate aspects of nature.
The second series of works that caught my eye was Matina Marki Tillman’s solarplate etchings, made from soft charcoal drawings exposed onto a light-sensitive plate. In each of her prints, Tillman’s lines and use of light create a strong sense of movement. In Lullaby, there is a downward pull throughout out the piece, beginning with the woman’s hair and the way it wraps around her shoulder, and lays across her arm. Then, the chiaroscuro-like highlights draw your eyes along her arms and down her fingers to the wrinkled spiral of the pillow. Lastly the heavy folds of her dress lead your eyes along her legs to settle on the floor. In Posing with Property, there is a rougher line quality than in her other prints, focusing on more expressive action rather than soft details. In this print, the energy begins with the figure’s eyes, staring straight out at the viewer, and then burst into her hair flowing straight out like a lion’s mane. From there on the folds of the dress, and slumped-back position of the baby, held nonchalantly on her lap, gently guides your eye downward and to the floor. Tillman’s style is unmistakably hers, and her charcoal strokes bring a new meaning to the etching technique.
The last piece was a sculpture by Gabriel Jules entitled Gay Bird. This mixed media piece is a large bird, with a gold beak and feet, whose feathers are made entirely of her old etchings. It was this element that made this piece so intriguing, because each hand-cut feather is composed of a unique piece of artwork that had been laboriously designed, etched, and printed to later be cut up into one of the many feathers of this bird. Additionally, despite the fact that each of these prints was most likely not made with the intention of becoming part of a birds wings, the lines of each etching lend themselves to the texture of feathers. Lastly, the ring at the tip of the bird’s beak is an interesting added detail.
Distant Voices featured an amazing selection of prints, from Kiyomi Baird’s monotypes, to Rosemary Cooley’s accordion books, to Carole Nelson’s color woodcuts. It was a truly varied and unique collection.