Walking Thread, Copper installation, dimensions vary, 2020

Editors note: this review is written from on-line tools the gallery has provided since closing their doors in compliance with orders from Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, so the reviewer saw it as the reader might.

Anne Peabody

A review by Kaylyn Taylor

Entire contents are copyright © 2020 by Kaylyn Taylor. All rights reserved.

Anne Peabody’s work is sublime and sophisticated. Her natural imagery is rendered in metallic, silvery, inky tones on glass and silk, and in sculpture, creating pieces that feel aged and mysterious. The foliage foreground in some of her pieces, as in South Carolina I and South Carolina II, frame a central bright neutral space, drawing us into the composition as if hiking through a wood, and coming upon a quiet clearing. In Turtles, we are alongside the stream, observing the slow, unspoiled wildlife. She focuses her study of nature in some of the smaller compositions. Sketch of a Wooden Board details the rhythm found in wood grain; rendered in gold leaf, the warmth of the wood is preserved. The subject is elevated by the medium, suggesting that trees are, in fact, the most precious substance in this world. Her works New Language, Disappearing and Tan Halo are rendered on swaths of silk. The applied metallic materials are mottled and streaky, creating a flat visual surface that flows with the draping of the fabric which is created when hung. The surface is liquid, and its depth relies on the combination of medium, material and display.

The installation piece Walking Thread puts us in a shiny, natural environment. Hand wrought vines of ivy, rendered in copper, climb the wall, and the surrounding floor is encroached upon by spiky copper ferns, leaves, trees and grasses, while a spider descends from her delicate copper web via a fine filament. The piece is simultaneously alluring and repellant. The familiar natural environment invites us to explore and imagine, but the sharp-edged media prevents this. Instead, the natural environment is beautiful and inaccessible, reminding us that there is an unknown and elusive element in nature that can be dangerous. 

The Moremen Gallery is hosting Anne Peabody’s exhibit Sunspike. A visit may be scheduled to view the works, but the gallery is currently closed to the general public due to COVID 19. Alternatively, an on-line catalog of her show, and a virtual visit on Vimeo are available. 

In the interest of addressing the limits the pandemic has placed upon the accessibility of art due to closed museums, canceled openings, and events, and directives of limited social interaction,  these are the tools I used to view these works. The virtual experience of viewing art has its virtues; accessibility of the work is guaranteed, additional information about the pieces and the artist is readily available with a quick Google search, with a zoom details that might be explored and, of course, the convenience …

However, unless the work is designed for a virtual presentation, a gallery viewing experience is irreplaceable. The most obvious element that is compromised is the understanding of the scale of a piece. While dimensions are given, the encounter is missing.  Anne Peabody’s piece Tennessee Woods is a six-foot by eight-foot depiction of a woodland path. The scale of the piece, and the reflective quality of the surface, put the viewer into the landscape, which is mystical in its luminescence. This experience cannot be replicated on a flat-screen. The dimensionality of her installation piece cannot be recreated either. The screen, by its very nature, flattens the experience, rendering the 3-d into the 2-d, and the tactile quality of the sculpture is lost. The smaller pieces translate better to a screen, as the actual size may be represented on a larger monitor, but again, the interaction with the surface of the work is lacking.IIn her silk draping, the fluid nature of the work resides in the cloth itself, which, when hung, is a three-dimensional composition. The light will play differently on that surface as it is being viewed, and again, this is not captured virtually.  

Also missing is the gallery environment. Viewing art is a sensory experience. Not only are our eyes engaged, but also our other senses. What sounds are provided, if any? Any smells or tactile components? How close may a viewer stand to the work, and in what order are the works presented? All these secondary considerations are invisible, until they are removed. Then, they become glaringly obvious in their absence. The virtual tour offers a bit of an answer to these needs, The Vimeo video provides music, motion, reflectivity and a taste progression within the gallery space, but it is not a comprehensive examination of the exhibit. Art viewing is subjective, so to even determine what a comprehensive video tour would look like is difficult to determine.

 Anne Peabody’s work is resolved, and it is beautiful. These qualities transcend the virtual experience, and the virtual experience of this exhibit reminds us to not be complacent in our appreciation of art, among other things,

Tan Halo (Named after the yellowing that occurs around the edges of old books and prints)
Sterling silver & gold leaf on silk, 38x57in, 2020

Anne Peabody

March 20-May 8, 2020

Moremen Gallery
710 W Main St, Suite 201
Louisville, Kentucky 40202

Kaylyn Taylor is an artist and writer living in Louisville with her husband and two children. She holds a BA in English & Humanities with a minor in Art from the University of Louisville. She was formerly the General Manager for Savage Rose Classical Theatre Company.