“Public/Private: The Arc of Longing” is an exploration of contrasting desires and a search for balance, and in the push and pull of feeling vs. logic, comfort vs. discomfort, and the juxtaposed elements and works playing off each other, it succeeds. The idea for this exhibit, 2-3 years in germination, as well as the gathering of artists was the vision of curator and Lamont Gallery’s Director, Lauren O’Neal.
The six artists in the main gallery strive to concretize feeling, emotion, and perspective, giving their works visual impact and clarity. Becky Barsi’s photographic portraits address body image and identity, and challenge our perceptions in how we view and reveal ourselves.
Amy Larimer honors personal and community suffering through a large-scale sculptural tribute to the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy with 26 steel wool “grieving coats” bearing silent witness throughout the gallery. Madison May, in her mixed-media works, deals with personal traumas, contrasting the illusion of house and home as a safe haven with the realities of abuse and family dysfunction.
Rachel Petrucillo’s graphite portraits enable a gentle voyeurism that captures unsuspecting individuals in public places while revealing their unguarded, private expressions. Miranda Updike’s paintings capture the movement, patterns, and color of crowds as seen from above on a map. Leah Woods’ carved and bent wood sculptures attempt to give form to feeling, creating a visual representation for a sensation that has no physical presence.
A spotlight solo show is arranged in a small gallery adjacent to the main gallery. The Process of Shaping Texture, by Ben Putnam, is a wide-ranging exhibit of drawing, collage, bookmaking, and ceramics. As I pondered each selection, I found myself counting—layers of a piled-high ceramic vase, tiny squares on a tiny field, vases placed in a contemplative row. It may say more about my own obsessions than his, but I saw numerology in his work, intentional or not.
Leah Woods’ work departed from conventional woodworking processes, which seemed, in her discussion, especially difficult for her to do. In fact, all the artists were striving to transcend their own personal boundaries and tread on new artistic ground. When asked if they were concerned about archival qualities, most were willing to allow their projects to decay, disappear, or even deconstruct them in the process of re-creating new works.
Seeing Amy Larimer’s steel wool “grieving coats” standing sentry throughout the gallery, and visible from every angle, was profoundly moving and sobering when one is reminded of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. The cocoon-like coats bear witness to the loss and suffering of the community. They call upon viewers to join in a collective grieving for this and many other tragedies that have occurred in the wake of gun violence.
Lauren has placed several “coats” in the Academy library across the street from the gallery where they beckon readers to come and join in the collective nature of the exhibit in all its vulnerability, human frailty, and thresholds of awareness. The artists pose more questions than they answer in their explorations, which makes for an engaging, thought-provoking exhibit. Worth a visit, the exhibit runs through July 29, so you will have to hurry to see it.