My Broken Loom
Recently at the Gage Academy School of Art’s Steele Gallery, was an artist-curated exhibition, “My Broken Loom.” The set of preoccupations of curator and participating artist Kimberly Trowbridge, seen alongside studio companions Robert Hardgrave, Brian Cypher and Jenny Heishman, are centered around the personal experience culled through process art.
During the artist talk, given on opening night, Trowbridge shared the meaning behind the title of the exhibition explaining how the work included was not predetermined, like the formulaic and mass produced tapestries made on an industrial loom. Working in a mode that is one of antithesis to commercialization, one could say these artists are taking a stand against Pop Art, which still directs the perception of so many artists today. Instead, these artists choose the vulnerable position of sharing their personal experiences of life and death, which are woven together through use of repetition, mark making and grouping. Indeed, together, these works display a collection of beautifully variegated works, making up a cohesive group exhibition.
In the paintings of Kimberley Trowbridge, crystalline shards penetrate between figure and ground, providing geometric interplay between form and space. In the best work of Trowbridge, she integrates the involvement between shape, color, pattern and form, luring us into a mythological dream world.
As a teaching artist at Gage Academy, Trowbridge’s individual canvases included in the exhibition provide an educational insight into her various formal concerns. Displaying an exploration into color theory, Alexandria (2011), utilizes jagged stripes repeated in similar values with different color saturation, creating a glorious vibration in an all over pattern. In Pattern/Figure (2011), the artist works from observation continuing her exploration of color vibration but this time with the added investigation of how the figure can been broken down into geometric shape and incorporated into the structure of its surroundings.
Breaking up the dense, ornamentation of the other works, Trowbridge allows some air to circulate around and through the figure in, Untitled (Undone) (2012). In contrast, this work does not utilize the gem like color of her other works, but holds on to the neutral tones of cubist paintings. In Trowbridge’s art talk, she reveals that this painting is the direction of her future works. There is in fact already evidence of this occurring such as in the painting, Growing Things in the Dark (2012), which was concurrently on view at the Blindfold Gallery.
Robert Hardgrave’s works are created by cutting varied shapes from his unresolved paintings, and sewing into them. By interweaving materials into all over patterns, Hardgrave’s work is evocative of indigenous inuit designs. Through his process of creation, the artist works like an alchemist who transforms base materials into noble totemic figures, conferring youth and immortality. After facing his own mortality due to a kidney transplant in 2003 and experiencing the loss of his father, Hardgrave work seems to explore notions of death and dying.
Suggesting transcendence into another world after death, we spot Favor (2012), a cow skull hung near the ceiling of the darkly painted gallery walls. Through its placement above our heads, it hovers like a spirit in the dark night sky. Perhaps the most magical piece in the show is, Thundermountain (2011), which is suggestive of an amalgamation of a tepee, bird and Inuit doll. The bright colors and beautiful patterning make this piece alive and a tribute to life.
In the elegant works of Brian Cypher, the artist aims to explore complex relationships in simple forms. By following abstraction of thought, Cypher explores language of science and the known world. Formal concerns and self imposed rules, such as repeating cut cardboard shapes (made of cereal boxes left over from his children’s breakfast) into self contained forms, the artists beckons universal readings of life and death.
In Yonic Space (2011), a repeated gestalt dyad form, drawn in graphite and cut vinyl adhesives, hover over a whited out cosmic image, indicative of a vaginal opening. Although the artist may possibly resist this interpretation himself (through formalization of the content) the viewer cannot avoid the symbolic reading of the piece as the origin of the world- as embodied in the image of the Yoni . Yoni is the Sanskrit word for female genitalia and an ancient symbol for the source, or entrance to the womb. This shape also occurs in relation to death, for instance in Christian depictions of the Last Judgment and Buddhist mandalas.
As a counterpoint, Arching Keways (2012), is a piece which embodies a self contained phallus symbol. In Hindu Religion, this form is regarded to as the lingam, which is not only seen as a sexual symbol but is also interpreted as a symbol of male creative energy. Interesting to note is that this piece is created out of a similar dyad shape used in Yonic Space (2012), thus bringing union of lingam and yoni together, representing the non duality of male and female, from which all life originates.
Jenny Heishman’s work at first glimpse appear as clunky, lopsided vessels made out of unattractive synthetic material. Returning again and again to these awkward shapes, the forms insist closer examination in search of something to suspend your disbelief. And then boom, it happens, upon looking closely at them, one notices the fine craftsmanship of the patterns made of adhesive stickers, which give the illusion of being woven. This counterbalance between imperfection and refined craftsmanship, the not quite right and the perfect, personify these vessels into what can be equated to the human condition.
The presentation and grouping of these cast away, industrially made vessels embodied in their antiquated forms, creates the feeling of an urban, archaeological site. Casually set on the gallery floor and propped up on milk crates, these receptacles are displayed in front of a tie-dye back drop, suggesting a blur between a still life and a museological display. Finding that point on the axis of time, where the past and the present become zero, the artist leaves us with perhaps the only thing which can be considered real, the present moment of now.
Weaving together geometric shapes with organic forms, the feminine and masculine and notions of life and death, this show exhibits a seamless demonstration of artists who seek non-dualism in an ever more fragmented society.