This morning as I arrived at work, I saw Amy and Trudi sitting side by side on the floor, putting up the lettering for the new show. There was something about the way they were sitting that reminded me of two little girls, happily making some big surprise for the adults in their lives. And, even though we are adults, that is the way that a lot of artists feel they are treated a lot of the time—like children who are indulged and encouraged while we play, but brushed aside when it’s time to think about serious things.
The show that Trudi has been installing for the last couple of days invites us to think about serious things. Guest curated by printmaker and weaver Cecilia Rossey, it carries the weighty title
Journey Through the Maze.
Cis has guest curated two other shows in the Dadian Gallery. In 2009, she brought us An Artist’s Reaction to War, in which ten artists were invited to make artworks responding to the war in Iraq as well as the idea of war in the abstract. This show, which first was exhibited at a gallery in Salem, NC, addressed aspects of war including the collateral death of children, the role of money and power, and the eternal hope for peace. A panel for Rossey’s own powerful contribution, “War Memorial: Iraq and Afganistan”, hangs in my office, a daily reminder of the thousands of nameless dead who are remembered only by their grieving families.
In 2010, Rossey gathered prints, paintings, and sculptures under the rubric Food and Form, inviting us to think about the symbolic nature of food, eating, and the body. In her statement about the idea behind the show, she wrote:
Acknowledged as the foundation of physical and emotional nourishment, artists probe the impact of food in contemporary society. Through myriad images and various media, artists highlight the beauty of food as form as well as food creating form.Food and Form spans contemplation of nature’s tempting designs for human ingestion to the corporate deviation from those original compositions to fatten profits. To ward off a national obesity epidemic, food activists wish to provoke a debate concerning basic nutrition, fitness and health.
BLACK.WHITE.REaD is just as serious as Rossey’s other shows. Reminding us that nothing is black, hardly anything is white, and very little is actually read, the works in this exhibition explore love and hate, faith and unbelief, fate and chance, and the many ambiguities of life. As Rossey writes,
The concept for the B.W.R exhibit began as a simple appreciation of graphic design: the stark contrast of black and white, subtle grays achieved in skillful etchings, red striking a bold emphasis. Over the year, this concept became a metaphor for life’s experiences. . . Often we hear “It's black and white,” “You knew what you married,” “You signed the contract.” These comments isolate rather than protect delicate personalities.
As Trudi and Amy applied the stark, red letters to the window outside the gallery, carefully making sure that everything lined up and that no air bubbles marred the clean lines and simple forms, I thought about the seriousness with which artists take their work of making the invisible visible. Although what we do may look like child’s play, we know that what we are really doing is creating worlds of meaning for others to inhabit. And that is no trivial task.