New Studio Art Faculty exhibition
David Kelley, Heddi Siebel, Andrea Evans
Opening Reception: Thursday, Sept. 1, 4:00-6pm
Gallery Talk: Friday, Sept. 16, 12:30-1:20pm
Exhibit Dates: August 22-Sept. 18, 2011
Gallery Hours: Daily 12-5pm
My work explores a desire to experience and comprehend the natural world in a different way. Using the woods as a site of exploration and play, I reexamine the myriad of ideas and fantasies of the wilderness that exists in our contemporary world. In the drawings, the actions embedded in the narratives reveal the physical limits of the body and the desire to bridge the gap between the self and the surrounding world. With my sculptural works, objects that have been severed from their natural environment are given careful yet absurd treatment that aims to protect, preserve, and ease their transition into life in an unnatural world. The performative works hinge on repetitive actions that further highlight the transformative potential of one’s relationship with specific objects, places, and spaces. Together, these different approaches call for a reexamination of the habitual ways that we relate to, and exist in, the natural world.
Andrea Sherrill Evans is a visual artist residing in Boston, MA, with a practice based in drawing, painting, performance, and sculpture. Her work uses the human body as a starting point from which to explore the diverse territory ranging between intimacy and isolation, longing and belonging, what is known and unknown. She received her BFA in painting from Arizona State University (2004), and MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston/Tufts University (2009). Evans is a recipient of a 2010-11 Blanche E. Colman Award, and in 2009, she attended the Homestead AK artist residency in Sunshine, Alaska. Select exhibitions include “Intimacy” at the ARC Gallery (Chicago, IL 2011), “Beyond Purview” at the New Art Center (Newton, MA 2010), “Works in Progress” at Mobius (Boston, MA 2010), “Drawings That Work: 21st Drawing Show” at the BCA Mills Gallery (Boston, MA 2009), and “There is No Place” at the Tufts University Art Gallery (Medford, MA 2009).
The work you see here in painting and film is the outcome of a fifteen-year project around the story of my grandfather’s failed North Pole expedition in 1903. This project began as a painting expedition in 1998 to follow the route of the Ziegler Expedition ship America through Norway and Svalbard to 80º North latitude. With a backpack of supplies, I painted 70 oil paintings, and interviewed descendants on video. Painting the actual sites helped me sense the light and space of the high arctic—a landscape my grandfather lived in for two years while marooned on the remote islands of Franz Josef Land. From my painting experience and the expedition’s archival materials, I have tried to reconstruct his interior life and explore the moment when his curiosity and dreams collided with the disappointing reality of their endeavor.
For me, painting is an intimate process: a hard but quiet look at the visible and invisible truths of a place and a chance to intuit and connect with the psychology of my observed world. In a journey, which is both actual and imaginative, I use painting to travel a pathway that links stories. I comingle my history with the story of a particular place. The paintings here represent three places in which I have invested personally: the Arctic, the Mount Auburn Cemetery and the Great Swamp in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
More recently, I have turned to the time-based media of film and video as a final format for my ideas. In this medium I also have taken a painterly approach. Playing with light, time, texture and sound, my short film Far, and Further evokes the interior place of an arctic camp and alludes to the conflicting identities of that place as both safe haven and prison. Part invention, and part documentary with archival footage and journal texts from the Ziegler Expedition, Far, and Further creates an explorer’s psychological space—the dreams, the memories, and the frustrations of divergent views of leadership.
Heddi Siebel is a multi-disciplinary artist who studied at Middlebury College, Rhode Island School of Design, and Yale University. She has been on the faculty of Wellesley College and the Massachusetts College of Art, and a visiting Lecturer at Harvard University, Rhode Island School of Design, and Boston University. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award, a Berkshire Taconic Foundation grant in printmaking, a Filmmaker-in-Residence Fellowship at WGBH in Boston, and a 2005 LEF Foundation Moving Image Award. Her prints and paintings are in private collections, and the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA; the Boston Public Library; and the Yale Art Gallery.
I have begun to recognize the concept of pharmakon as a paradox central to my work. In Plato’s Pharmacy, Derrida presents a close reading of an anecdote of a Greek king who is introduced to writing. The king is told writing is a technology that will allow him to remember better. The king recognizes writing as a pharmakon that will actually increase forgetting as much as it preserves memory. Pharmakon is both cure and poison. Photography and filmmaking are implicated by this same paradox – they are at once real moments in the world, and simultaneously completely artificial. And furthermore this double identity allows them to serve both capitalism and revolution.
I make photographs, videos, sculptures, and installations. My work revolves around social and geographic landscapes that are transformed through development, industry, war, and modernization. I have worked on the subject of anti-American sentiment in 1960’s Japan by re-staging Rauschenberg’s performance Gold Standard in Tokyo. I have considered Chinese opera actors’ shifting imaginaries of landscape and development as the Three Gorges Dam was displacing their city. In Sieve (Pharmakon) I rehearsed various iterations of documentary realism in the Amazonian city of Manaus, Brazil.
My process involves enlisting people to act out improvised performances of their own ideas and identities combined with my scripted scores and narratives. These events manifest as both photographic tableaux and video installations. This process of constructing performances often becomes central to the work. Form and content blend inseparably. I consider most of my work to be documentary, even though it is primarily composed of mytho-poetically, staged events. This feeling is an echo of Roland Barthes and Straub Huillet’s notion that all films (including fictional) are documents of performance. This is a theme I grapple with in my work: desiring for video and photography to affect me, while exposing their structures.
I traveled to the Brazillian Amazon to make my most recent project Sieve (Pharmakon) which conflates various iterations of scientific and artistic realism. I wanted to stage an ethnographic film in the favellas in Manaus, to film inside the Amazonas Opera where Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo was made, and to film the vast plant archives of the Amazonian scientific research institute INPA. When I met the film crew that would help produce and perform in the video, my producer Sergio Andrade told me about a film he was making about a group of indigenous boys who committed ritual suicide after being influenced by black metal music and drugs. Immediately I recognized his film’s relationship to my own. With his permission we incorporated his rehearsals and interviewed his indigenous actors about their experiences of playing a version of themselves in his fictional film. Serendipity!
Performance and site are inseparable materials in my work, and they make an ideal pedagogical stage on which a socially-engaged art can be produced. The unpredictable situations that happen when working in the field often create unexpected and productive results. The paradox of the photographic process is always at play: its pharmakon-nature as the self-conscious act of recording events that always separates artist and audience from the process of simply living life. How to occupy this field in a conscious and socially-engaged way is the practice and the challenge.
David Kelley received a BA in Literature from Trinity College and an MFA from the University of California Irvine. He has shown his work internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Gabrielle Maubrie Galerie in Paris, Las Cienagas in Los Angeles, the Franco Soffiantino Arte Contemporenea in Turin, Italy, and the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden.