by Lauren Flotte, SAI Contributor
The Foundry Show opened this past Friday, (April 25) and featured bronze and iron sculptures created by nine SCAD students in Professor Matt Toole’s Foundry Class. The exhibition was hosted at Sicky Nar Nar, a gallery space/yoga studio/coffee bar nestled in the primarily residential area just west of Forysth Park. Inside the space, upbeat music fed the lively mood and the artists mingled among the sculpture with professors, art admirers, and their peers.
The bronze and iron pieces, all roughly around the same small-ish scale, were displayed on simple, glossy, black pedestals and matching pedestal display tables, with a small sampling of the work hung on the walls. While the conceptual backing for each artist was diverse, there was a playfulness that seemed to carry through the works.
Most of the artists integrated other materials into their pieces; wood, copper, lead, paint, sand, and even plant matter appeared. This exploration of materiality, coupled with the aesthetics of a new generation of artists, brought lightness to the traditionally heavy, both visually and physically, bronze medium.
The exhibition curator as well as featured artist, Sami Lee Woolhiser, excitedly described the process of creating the works. She recounted how the students used a lost wax process: they created wax versions of their works that were used to make molds which molten bronze would later be poured in.
“It’s a team sport,” Woolhiser said. “First, we all suited up in these big, silver, heat protectant suits.” Then the students melted down 600 pounds of bronze. The pour team, under the lead of the “live end” who controls the pour (a role Woolhiser reluctantly accepted) dispensed the near 2300°F bronze by tipping a crucible containing the liquefied metal into the molds.
“It was the most surreal, purely aesthetic experience. It was impossible not to notice all the things that were happening. It’s dangerous! There’s molten metal. You have to be careful but enjoy it at the same time,” Woolhiser said.
After the bronze in the molds cooled, the students beat their molds off the metal. Then they began the process of finishing the pieces by welding and removing the hallmarks of the casting in a process calledchasing. Finally, the students colored their pieces by applying a patina using heat and a chemical treatment to alter the surface color.
Understanding the intensive process behind these pieces only added to the beauty of the exhibition and further highlighted the juxtaposition between the fresh, youthful style of the pieces and the time-honored bronze casting process. Woolhiser exhibited several charming pieces depicting crooked, little homes seemingly left to invasive and meaty succulents in some slightly twisted fairy tale. Ty Derousseau presented an almost sequential exploration of an endearing little monster who found himself in darkly comic circumstances, reminiscent of a Pixar short. Kristen Crouch paid homage to creative and personal ideation, dreams, and growth, by encasing ‘dead’ journals in elegant wooden coffins, topped with beautiful bronze sculptures.
The Foundry Show was a lovely showing of work, united by the innately compelling bronze process. “It’s fitting for us all to show together. We went through the process together. We’re a family,” said Woolhiser. It was easy to get swept up in the mood of the room. The comfortable, yet excited chatter reflected the feeling of accomplishment the group of young artists felt, as well as the kinship that was forged through exploring, learning, and creating together.
Gallery Hop: Zen and the art of structure and sound
Friday nights, as usual, present Savannah dwellers with a myriad of artistic events to attend. This time around, the experience extends beyond the visual into a festival of the senses as we are engulfed into a sensorial representation of absolute enlightenment. Last week, Sicky Nar Nar Gallery opened its doors to “Ensō,” an installation by Sami Lee Woolhiser complemented with sound design by Kevin Lee Jr.
Ensō, by the definition provided by the artist, is “a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.” Under this concept, Woolhiser embarks in the incredible task of creating a physical journey that recreates through art this very intrinsic Zen technique. She carefully extrapolates many possible scenarios in order to fully engulf each visitor in her vision.
Woolhiser has succeeded in creating an ethereal stronghold. The combination of the archways and their circular disposition are subliminal symbols of stability and balance. Spectators feel safe within the structure and are inspired to stay inside of it rather than outside.
The artist explains that the purposeful use of bed sheets as her painting surface give the installation a sense of home and femininity. More than just femininity, she makes emphasis of the quaint experience of running through freshly tended sheets–a symbol to many of motherly care.
The technique she uses on her sheets establishes through color and gradation a strong spiritual bedrock. The sheets change from a radiant blue to white in an organic way, rather than a perfect airbrush finishing. This blue bottom, however, hangs a few inches from the floor. Even though its color and position establish strong footing, it is still a flowing entity, evoking the sense of openness that the artist looks to bestow upon the viewer.
Sicky Nar Nar’s windowed space is a visual treat for the approaching visitor. As the piece itself has been tailored to the physical space of this gallery, Woolhiser has successfully used the space to her advantage, leaving a walkway on the outside of the installation that is proportional to the size of the inner archway. This balance makes the spectator a constant part of the installation, no matter where you are standing.
The gradated hanging fabrics create an universally-pleasing sensation that attracts immediate exploration of the rest of the space. Unlike other installations that make the spectator worry about disturbing the piece, "Ensō" draws you into its center.
The measurements of her arches seem to match, or at least ressemble, those that are used in modern architecture. This piece of information calls upon the visitor’s knowledge of space and immediately recall the structural sturdiness of an arch. To add a deeper layer to the experience, Woolhiser’s work with sound designer Lee allows your auditory and tactual senses to be engaged in the piece. This interactive quality is the cherry on top of the metaphorical sundae. The gallery space is activated in four dimensions, seeing as the sound changes through movement add an element of time.
The experience is left in the hands of the visitor, making them a crucial element in the installation’s success. The way in which the visitor interacts with the hanging fabric defines the intensity, length and oftentimes repetition of a certain sound. The journey within this physical Ensō quickly becomes a shared one—a group sensation of sorts. As people walk through the archways, the sounds interact as well as the visitors. Each combination of guests within the installation create a new song. The experience is continually unique as the combination of sounds changes with all the nuances of whoever is present inside the circle.
Woolhiser’s "Ensō" comes as part of a series of installations exploring similar themes of personal and spiritual exploration. Her previous work, “Passage,” employs similar material and concept but in a smaller, more confined experience.
In her exploration of spirituality and the self, she labels her the steps of her process as “translations.” It is her job as an artist to interpret and reinterpret concepts of representation. Therefore, “translating” this information into experiences to which a spectator can relate.
Sami Lee Woolhiser is currently a painting and sculpture student at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Upon graduation, she plans to return to her home state of California in order to pursue a Master’s degree in Education as she establishes her own independent studio.
Sami Lee Woolhiser’s “Enso” Unveiled at Sicky Nar Nar
by Kayla Goggin, Editor-in-chief. Photographs by Lauren Flotte, SAI Contributor.
Last Friday night Sicky Nar Nar gallery hosted the opening of Sami Lee Woolhiser’s exhibit Enso. The show was comprised of a single work of art: a fabric installation, the second in a series of “passages” Woolhiser has created. About 45 sheets of fabric hung in a circle (the bottoms of the fabric floated several inches off the floor), creating a circular passageway. Atonal music made up of the sounds of water dripping, wind-chimes, and soft rustling played in the background.
It was a kinetic, experiential artwork that encouraged visitors to stroke the fabric as they walked through, their touch moving the piece in an undulating tide that circled around to greet the next person. In a short conversation, Woolhiser revealed that the fabric she used is actually twin-sized bedsheets which she chose for their familiar, comforting quality. During our chat, the artist mentioned that she wanted to evoke the childhood memory of running through drying sheets on a clothesline; she seems interested in overlapping images of domesticity and of nature, including the glacial ice caves that the dip-dyed white-to-blue fabric is so reminiscent of. Whatever the mind conjured up inside of Enso – it was all wrapped up in feelings of intimacy and calm.
The experience of engaging with this work was entirely meditative. The arrangement of the piece suggested a form of walking meditation: you follow behind the patron in front of you, adapting to their pace as you slowly walk in a circle. Some people chose to walk in a straight line, bisecting the piece and disrupting the flow, but inside of Enso everything seemed permissible. The piece asked little of the viewer, it was merely an invitation into a peaceful, endless space. The stacked fabrics floated inches off the ground like thin veils, quivering diaphanously in the slight breeze that came through the gallery door. A tree in a wooden planter stood in the center. It might have been easy to imagine oneself in a monastery somewhere in the forest if not for the tiled gallery floor and (unfortunately) visible PVC armature.
The work was complimented by atonal music from Kevin Lee, Jr., which Woolhiser told me was interactive. She claimed that the chimes, water drips and ethereal clinks of Lee Jr.’s composition were corresponding to the movements of visitors inside the installation. When asked where the sensors were located Woolhiser refused to say. “That’s a secret,” she said. Either way, the music helped round out the trance-like reverie the piece attempted to create.
As a conceptual work of art (a la Christo’s The Gates) Enso was aesthetically engaging from the perspective of both the viewer and the participant. But its success was ultimately limited by the space it was housed in. It is my opinion that the work might have been more effective in a space better prepared to create an atmosphere appropriate to Woolhiser’s vision. It is unfortunate that Sicky Nar Nar failed to seize the opportunity to coalesce here; a change in lighting, for example, could have made a significant difference. Why not use the uber-hip mason jars hung from the focalized tree to create ambient lighting? Why not hold off on the coffee sales for an evening in favor of an environment free from the intrusion of those transactions? I applaud the gallery for exhibiting Woolhiser’s refreshing work (god knows it’s nice to see an installation in Savannah!) but I question their prioritization of the art itself. What does Sicky Nar Nar want to be? A gallery? A coffee shop? A yoga studio? A venue?
As a result, the effectiveness of the piece on its audience was indeterminable. Enso was engaging aesthetically (though a second incarnation with a concealed armature would be a welcome improvement) but failed to provide lasting sustenance as an artwork. Woolhiser is obviously a young artist with extraordinary promise and creativity. I hope that her next offering is as ambitious experientially as it is conceptually.
The art also rises
Desotorow announces change of name and expansion of mission
The soon-to-be Art Rise Savannah gallery is currently exhibiting work from Sami Lee Woolhiser.
Another First Friday Art March last week found the expanding underground art galleries south of Gaston brimming with bright young things and usual suspects. Much of the talk in the galleries centered around Desotorow Gallery's announcement that they received their first grant from the city to expand their non-profit efforts to support artist exhibitions.
The gang at Desotorow has been in charge of organizing the gallery efforts south of Gaston, and as of January 2014 will change their name to Art Rise Savannah.
Lauren Flotte, president of Desotorow, explains, "Art Rise Savannah will expand the Desotorow fellowhips beyond our own gallery into others and support thirty-day fellowship exhibitions for artists."
The newly-named organization is also now ready to solicit members from levels of $35 and up. This is great news in a city where SCAD MFA grads must pay for their thesis exhibitions.
Additionally, the Art Rise Savannah website will offer an online chronicle of the arts called Savannah Art Informer.
Inside Desotorow Gallery, Sami Lee Woolhiser's fellowship exhibition "Translations" explores relationships between materials, images, form and viewers.
Of her work, the artist says that "working in painting, installation and sculpture, the medium of a piece is determined by the work itself. It knows what it is and what it should be."
Her exhibition is up for a month and provokes viewers to think about the relationships between materials and forms. On my way out, she gave me the best take-away art quote of the night: "Making things is never a waste of time." Hear, hear!
More explorations of materials through were found at Non Fiction Gallery's packed house of enthusiasts for an exhibition by the dynamic duo of Akiyo Kaneko and Daniela Izaguirre titled "Kokeshi." The objects examine what the artists call "the disconnected story of human relationships" through the eyes of Japanese Kokeshi dolls.
The interactive installation of fiber sculpture is worth a look. But moreover, the overall mixture of fibers, painting, sculpture and installations is shrouded in a mysterious aura from a faraway land. This one is highly imaginative, to say the least.
Art marchers found a new twist in the mix of items on display at Sicky Nar Nar, with a standing room only trunk show of vintage clothing and an art historian reading tarot cards. Funky fashion and fortunes all in one place! This is in keeping with this upscale, hippified gallery's goal to welcome new ideas.
The rising tide of Savannah's underground art scene, now augmented by Art Rise Savannah's increased funding of exhibitions, will be something to watch. I question whether the Hostess City's charmed, yet dirty, face is going to be scrubbed up a bit by these efforts.
I am reminded of T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock:
Let us not ask, "What is it?"
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room
The women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo
Surely, the yellow fog of Prufrock's world still rubs its muzzle on the window panes of these new galleries, but surely things are bound to change. Get out and make the visit and join the metamorphosis of art galleries south of Gaston. For more info visit www.artmarchsavannah.com.
Youth always has its hand in the wave of the future. They are the minds of tomorrow, and they control the trajectory of the cultural landscape. As such, Acme Studios is holding a special exhibition, entitled “30 Under 30,” which opens this Friday, March 27. It will be complete with painting, photography, printmaking, bookmaking, collage, mixed media, sculpture, installation, and video, all from feature artists from across the globe. Wilmington-native and resident Acme artist Kristen Crouch is responsible for the show, along with jurors Sami Woolhiser and Blair Nidds. Crouch returned to Wilmington last June and since has immersed herself in the local scene by becoming involved with outlets like Cameron Art Museum, Kids Making It and Cucalorus Film Festival.
PERCEPTION OF TRUTH: Leslie Andrade will showcase her painting, “You And Humps Through Carried His,” at “30 Under 30.” Photo, courtesy the artist.
“I put out a call for entry, with the only specification being age,” she tells. “I started getting international submissions. It happened really beautifully because I didn’t put a lot of restrictions on it. I wanted it to be under 30 because I wanted an outlet for young artists to be recognized. In my opinion, much of Wilmington’s art scene has been influenced by vintage traditions. I want to break down all of that.”
The SCAD graduate, who majored in photography and minored in sculpture, recently showcased her photography collection, “I Will Live On,” at Artfuel Inc. The collection debuted in Savannah and deals with the tragic passing of her brother. In this show, Crouch will display a piece from the collection, “Multiple Blunt Impact Injuries Torso and Head.”
“Nothing of this world makes sense except for art,” Crouch says. “I am at the beginning of my journey and I’m learning everyday. That is key. I stopped thinking of all this as work. It is just necessary to being happy and fulfilled.”
Her passion takes her through 18-hour days and forces her to delve into each creative inkling that pops into her head. As well, a tightly knit band of positive and supportive people have kept her working toward her artistic dreams. The work of young artists holds a special place in her heart because of the camaraderie derived from young people having both similar and divergent cultural stimuli thrown at them. As creatives, their only response, naturally, is to create.
“They are the ones who are carrying the weight of the art world—or are conversely defying it—and subsequently will be the ones to define the art era we are in,” Crouch tells.
Two artists whose work she notes will be specifically exciting are 23-year-old Los Angeles dweller Cindy Conrad, who will show an untitled painting on turf glass. Likewise 27-year-old Israeli visionary Eden Mitsenmacher will screen a video entitled “A Poem For You.”
Also displaying work will be 21-year-old Leslie Andrade. Growing up in Quito, Ecuador, Andrade was exposed to art by her photographer father. She began by tracing over images and eventually found she could mimic an image just by viewing it. Purple crayons and graphic paper make up Andrade’s earliest forays into artistry. Being raised in a third-world country has guided her artistic interests.
“Even as a young girl, my mother would make my siblings and I take the public bus from our home in the countryside into the city,” Andrade says. “She wanted us to truly love our country for its entirety. The reality I saw while living in Ecuador has created a yearning to travel and see more of the world.”
Andrade went on to graduate from Sweet Briar College in 2014, with a bachelor of arts in studio art and a certificate in arts management, as well as minors in art history and Spanish. It was there she began to discover her passion for painting; her senior exhibition included eight oil paintings. Likewise, a study abroad to Seville, Spain, helped her realize a love for abstract, contemporary styles.
Currently, Andrade lives in South Florida. At “30 under 30” she will display her painting “You And Humps Though Carried His.” The piece is part of her “Astral Plane” series that she completed in 2013-2014. This specific piece began with the image of a cherry, which can found on the humps of a camels.
“My main focus during this series revolved around understanding and capturing my interpretation of the physical dimension and the realm of illusion,” Andrade tells. “Physical vision inhibits the mind of a human from being able to logically translate the reality seen in the subconscious. This is because any form of visual language is automatically corrected by one’s conscious perception of ‘truth.’ As a result, what the mind sees in the astral plane is unexplainable in the language of ordinary speech and therefore becomes an illusion.”
Also showing as part of the exhibit is full-time artist Tim Kent, who attended college at SCAD, alongside Crouch. Though they never had class together, they bumped into each other at the occasional gallery exhibit.
Kent has set up his own studio and woodshop in Atlanta, and currently works on canvases hand-shaped from wood. He draws inspiration from light and space-oriented artists, like Robert Irwin and James Terrell. In “30 Under 30,” he will display “Orange Chroma,” a 36-by-30-by-4 painting, and “Iridescent Chroma,” an 18-by-18-by-4 painting. They examine the nature and its colors in relationship to the environment.
“These paintings represent a new direction in my series,” Kent details. “I have been creating shaped canvases for a while, but these strainers are built so the works really play on the three-dimensionality of a canvas.”
“Orange Chroma” illuminates the vibrant hue of bright orange, and catches light and shadows through outer bevel, inner bevel, and a smaller canvas inside. Likewise, “Iridescent Chroma” is made with a unique pigment that changes color as the viewer circumnavigates the piece. With his work, he maintains an overarching goal to convey a sense of mystery to gallery-goers.
“30 Under 30” opens during Fourth Friday Gallery Night at Acme Art Studios on South 5th Avenue, with an opening reception from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. this Friday.
30 Under 30: A Young Artist Group Exhibition
Acme Art Studios, 711 N. 5th Ave.