During the stay-at-home orders, the Carlisle Arts Learning Center (CALC) shared a “Works in Progress” feature on its Facebook page and website. It featured member artists in a wide variety of posts, from slideshows of a photographer’s current shots to studio “tours” to watching the progression of a single painting.
The series is still available to view on the CALC website, www.carlislearts.org.
Once the gallery was allowed to re-open in June, a quick call was put out to those artists who had participated in the series. They were asked to share a new piece—not necessarily the piece(s) featured on the website—for an exhibition titled, “Stay @ Home—Staying Connected.”
An interesting twist to the exhibit is it includes a statement from each artist (something not usually done in CALC group shows) in the form of a 144 character “tweet” about the piece or their experience during the “quarantine.” The purpose was for the artists and the viewers to be able to get connected, since we have all been in our own little bubbles for so long now.
Twenty-nine artists from the web series participated in the new exhibit. Some works are direct responses to the pandemic; others are just an extension of what people normally do. Art is shown as a way to cope, relax and express the complex emotions felt by many of us during the height of the pandemic.
Many individuals used their time during the pandemic to explore activities that often got put aside during the rush of “normal life.” Beth Reese’s “Embroidered Therapy #1-5” series explores her desire to hand embroider. The brightly colored designs highlight the beauty of this traditional art form. Reese found a meditative quality in the stitching process that time afforded to her in the lockdown.
Similarly, Ella Shatz was able to borrow a potter’s wheel and use the time to explore her love of ceramics. The elegant simplicity of the work, along with the calming, earthy colors imparts a zen-like feel in her process, as well as her product.
Time has often allowed for reflection. Maureen Joyce’s Raku piece “Ode to Ian” is a detailed sculpture of fish with a metallic-looking finish. Joyce’s work is a meditation on the passing of her brother 20 years earlier. Her brother’s love of fishing and the message of patience is clearly visible within the work.
Large scale pieces are particularly eye-catching in the G.B Stuart Gallery. Kirsten Olsen’s “Salmon Veil” is an acrylic on canvas that uses long streaks of color cascading down the canvas. Much like the namesake fish’s ability to glide through the water, the graceful colors not only wash across but also bleed onto the canvas in delicate, feathery fingers.
Pamela Black’s “Helplessness Blues” is an expressive abstract created over the weeks of quarantine during her children’s naptime. The movement was inspired by music and communicates the desire for serenity and calm using shades of blues and greens in fluid curves and dripping lines.
During the pandemic, many of the ills of society came in to focus as well. Catherine Stone’s “I’ll leave the light on II” is three works of mixed media/collage on wood. Each work portrays a home with a single light shining in a window. For Stone, the single lit window captures the “sleeplessness, loneliness, hopefulness, waiting for a loved one’s return” and the anxiety of the era.
Carrie Breschi’s “Homelessness” is a sculpture of found objects that examines the issue of how one is to shelter in place when one lacks basic shelter. An outdoor scene of a bench and branches symbolizes life without a home. Sweet Gum Balls, painted brightly red, represent the widely recognized symbol of the coronavirus and are spread out over the scene and even spill onto the floor below to portray the concept that the virus is everywhere and those without shelter are even more vulnerable to exposure.
Crafted from copper, nickel and glass beads, Alison Rosen’s “Black Lives Matter Breastplate” responds to the Black Lives Matter movement. The defiant assertion to “say their names” and her artist’s statement, which simply lists the name of those Black Americans who were victims of racial violence, is a bold, timely and powerful message. The ability of art to shine a light on society’s issues is exemplified in this expertly constructed work.
Nicole Dube shares her “Alive and Well” series, projected into a house-shaped frame on the wall. Born out of sincere concern to document the well-being of those in her community, she has photographed households simply standing in front of their homes giving a gentle wave to signify that all is well.
For this exhibit, she has printed each of the 101 pictures of community members and is going to donate them—by mailing each one individually, postcard style, to the Cumberland County Historical Society. Participants in her series are invited to come in and write a message and sign their cards during the exhibit.
Many opportunities have been canceled for artists and craftspeople, and “Stay @ Home—Staying Connected” serves as a way to give local artists renewed visibility. The work shows how they have used their gifts to create, cope and communicate in this unprecedented time. It is yet another welcome return to the arts for our community, and while online posts have been able to share art, it is important to safely and responsibly support the in-person art experience by visiting the galleries once again.
“Stay @ Home—Staying Connected” is on display at CALC until Aug. 1. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment. CALC is located at 38 W. Pomfret St., in Carlisle.
Centers for Disease Control guidelines are being followed, which requires visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing. Limits are also set on the number of visitors permitted in the gallery. The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.CarlisleArts.org or call 717-249-6973.
Joseph George holds a degree in history and art history from Dickinson College. He and his wife, Barrie Ann have spent over 30 years together traveling and visiting art galleries locally and throughout the world. They have been writing about the local art scene for seven years. Their tastes range from fine art to street art.
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