‘Realized,” the current exhibition at the Art Association of Harrisburg, began with curator Rachel O’Connor’s personal approach to her role at the gallery.
“The word ‘curate’ originates from the Latin word curare, which means, ‘to take care,’” O’Connor explained. “I see it as my job to nurture an artist’s vision, as much as it is my responsibility to take care of the objects that physically make up a show (amongst many other things).”
This approach led O’Connor to invite four Midstate artists to “realize” their artistic visions within four separate spaces within the gallery. The artists selected—Chad Whitaker, Hannah Dobek, Reina “R76” Wooden and Kelly M. Curran—were given the opportunity to occupy and create site specific installations, taking inspiration from within them, as well as from the freedom given to them by the curator.
Entering the gallery, one can see that Whitaker is no stranger to installation art, since his sculptural techniques allow him to fully inhabit a space. Predominately constructed with used bed sheets, glue, wood, plastic and paint, Whitaker’s forms may appear hidden at first, covered by the sheet. But instead, that “cover” is the skin of the form. As the shapes are contorted, wrapped and twisted, they convey fluidity mixed with tension.
“Shadow” is suspended from the ceilings of the gallery with ropes, allowing the viewer to walk around and experience a 360-degree view. It is an immersive experience following the lines that bind and suspend the darkened sculpture.
Whitaker has given the walls a true pop of color with a series of “Containment” pieces in pink, blue, yellow, orange and red. It is not only the colors that catch the eye, but also the shapes and textures lift off the walls, intriguing and engaging the viewer.
As one artist draws inspiration from a subconscious dreamlike state, another has used her memories of the past to fuel her art. Dobek’s “Dom,” the Polish word for “home,” examines how we define and identify with the concept of home. Taking advantage of the mansion’s two stories and its historical architecture and character, Dobek’s work is seamlessly integrated within the space, creating a sense of familiarity and a bit of melancholy.
Dobek’s work employs several genres as she repurposes found objects within individual installations, integrating her own paintings into domestic interiors. Her color palette consists mostly of red, white and black, enhancing the drama. “Down (For Every Up),” “The Performer” and “Haven” all depict solemn, raven-haired, porcelain-skinned, women experiencing distress and sadness. Dobek’s intense storytelling vision is personal, yet relatable to the viewer.
While artists were given individual galleries, Wooden, divided her room up to create even more personal spaces with an immersive box project. A self-described conceptual artist, Wooden suspended several cardboard boxes, painted and covered with appropriated magazine images or stream of conscience graffiti-like commentary.
“F.U.N. Box,” “The Future,” “Heaven,” “Hell” and “Black Box” allow the viewer to stand with his or her head inside to read and view Wooden’s perspectives as described by the titles. As the words and images encapsulate the viewer, the messages bombard much like a scream, despite silence within the gallery. Drawing on influences from the worlds of street, pop and conceptual art, Wooden invites the viewer in to lose one’s self within her intense, layered works.
Curran used her gallery space for “The Path,” an installation using light, bright colored glass, vibrant geometric and tribal paintings, all telling one story. She was inspired by a series of dreams about a turquoise beaded sash. The sash contains symbols that serve as the inspiration for the show. Walking around the room tells the story about how the “path” shares elements that are both uniquely individual and universally whole.
Curran uses her skills as an oil painter and a stained glass maker to construct more than 30 individual pieces, which are assembled together to create “The Path.” But it is also her skill in using the natural light in the room, reflecting or shining through the colored glass to “paint” on the floors and walls, which complements and enhances the experience.
The artists of “Realized” all approached an identical opportunity with their own individual vision, craft and skill. Though it resulted in four, very different installations, they are cohesive in communicating their vibrant, artistic passion effectively within their space.
“Realized” will have a reception during the Friday “Third in the Burg” celebration, until 9 p.m., with all artists in attendance. The exhibit is on display until Jan. 3, 2019.
The Art Association of Harrisburg is located at 21 N. Front St., Harrisburg. Gallery hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.artassocofhbg.com or call 717-236-1432.