Mary Carothers, “A Place Between”, 2017. Wood, rope, sand. Dimensions variable
Project 17: Ritual Geography
Work by Mary Carothers, Sarah McCartt-Jackson, Adrienne Miller & Joyce Ogden
Curated by Eileen Yanoviak
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Any thoughtful consideration of nature fairly demands an understanding of harmony – a balance among the elements. In Project 17: Ritual Geography, curator Eileen Yanoviak has constructed an exhibit that exemplifies the notion of balance in various ways: balance of materials, balance of scale, balance of the primitive and the cerebral, balance of the intellectual and the visceral.
Although they consist of acrylic, gouache, and colored pencil on Mylar sheets, Adrienne Miller’s two-dimensional work have the appearance of translucent layers laid carefully against one another. The hard-edged geometric shapes are positioned in contrast to fauna rendered with careful, delicate line, and smudges of gouache paint that exploit the inherent quality of the Mylar surface, creating an illusion of depth. The images are of built or contained spaces; not quite buildings but interior or enclosed spaces are her subject, depicted with an intriguing ambiguity.
Sarah McCartt-Jackson is a poet, making her presence here somewhat idiosyncratic. But her work is thematically consistent with Yanoviak’s ideas, and is here given a graphic visual emphasis through a layout fashioned after diagrammatical sentence structures. The language is visually ripe and suggestive:
…that bulged like pregnant women lying on their backs on
crumpled bedsheet dunes
But her inclusion in the exhibit depends as much on the spare black & white vinyl layout of lines and words on the wall. As visual art, these are the most distant, emotionless pieces of the group, and they stand out for that reason. It’s the biggest risk Yanoviak takes in her choices, but it pays off by expanding our expectations of what an exhibit can be. McCartt-Jackson’s poems also pay dividends once the viewer realizes that the images she provokes in your imagination take their rightful place alongside the other work.
Joyce Ogden is an artist but also a farmer; dedicated to an agrarian lifestyle that profoundly informs her work, here primarily composed of soil. In “Mound Calendar (lunar)” 2017, which greets viewers as they enter the space, rows of cone-shaped mounds of soil cover the surface of a long, cherry wood table on rustic casters (fabricated by Jake Ford and Jesse Gibbs). Organized into sections echoing the months of a calendar, notable dates are demarcated by other organic elements, such as zirconium dioxide, flowers, strawberry, deer antler and bird skull. The piece dominates the first of two floors, but Ogden also displays soil in circles on plate glass hung in grids, and includes a contrast of sorts in “Gathering” 2015-2017, in which repurposed science lab flasks hang in another grid, each containing organic flora and fauna: cherry tomato, goldenrod, viburnum leaf, comfrey flowers, the most recent of which was bottled in July 2016.
Ogden combines the forensic eye of a scientist, a farmer’s reverence for the earth as a renewable agricultural resource, and an artist’s sophisticated aesthetic. Time is equally important as an ingredient in all three perspectives, and this artist has long charted the trend of social and environmental awareness making temporality as crucial to artists as paint, clay, or any other tangible medium.
Upstairs, two of the three rooms are taken up by Mary Carothers’ “A Place Between”, which constitutes an installation within an installation. Entirely personal in its conception – the piece reflects Carothers’ experience traveling to the Outer Hebrides to trace an ancestor, but somewhat epic in its execution. The skeletal “bones” of a boat rest above the open rafters, looming over the viewer, long stretches of rope extending down to the surrounding walls and expanses of sand with rope knots partially buried. There are deliberate echoes of fossilized remains: the boat could be a large dinosaur skeleton, again capturing time as a key factor, as the artist connects with her past, and speaks to the immigrant experience in the present moment of political divisiveness.
The work of Miller and McCartt-Jackson exist in a pre-exhibit relationship, Yanoviak noting in her program notes that the poet’s move into such a unique visual presentation was directly inspired by Miller’s paintings. The use of language and geometry make both seem especially cerebral in contrast to the literal earthiness of Carothers and Ogden, but that intellectualism runs as a thread in all four artists. We also find time playing a role in how the viewer digests McCartt-Jackson’s poems, patiently deciphering the analytical, rhythmic structure to read the words in sequence. Repetition is also a connecting dynamic in all of the work.
Yet, however much our instincts demand cohesiveness, the contrasts are perhaps more crucial in establishing the greatest understanding of what Yanoviak is up to here. Witnessing four women artists express personal rituals (for almost all art is ritual), each of which claims land and geography in the broadest sense. Once women could not own land or build buildings, and architecture remains a challenging profession for women, so the central idea of Ritual Geography embraces at least a nugget of feminism, providing a milestone for how the intensive relationship to land and the world at large is a vital part of the human character unrestricted by gender.
Project 17: Ritual Geography
April 7 – May 20, 2017
Thursday – Saturday, 11am-6pm.
610 East Market Street
Louisville. KY 40202
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of PUBLIC on WXOX-FM 97.1/ ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.