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Artists Display Shared Affinity for Discarded Objects

Installing

by Nancy Shohet West
Boston Globe
Jan. 27, 2011

Although Antoinette Winters, Jessica Straus, and Abigail Read are longtime friends and colleagues — the three taught art together at Concord Academy in the 1980s, and have stayed in close touch ever since — they generally work in different media. Winters paints and draws, Straus is a sculptor, and Read’s primary interest is the mixed-media form known as book arts, involving paper and three-dimensional shapes.

But while talking about work recently, they detected a common thread in their current projects: Each was in some way addressing the subject of found objects. And so was another sculptor whose work interested them, Laura Evans.

They began examining ways to present their different approaches to the concept of found objects, and the result is a show, “Trigger and Reconfigure,’’ which is having its opening reception today from 4:45 to 6 p.m. in the Jewett Art Gallery at Wellesley College. Winters and Straus served as curators, with help from gallery director Clara Lieu.

“Each piece, regardless of whether it is a sculpture or two-dimensional wall art, started with the artist finding an object that most people would not ordinarily be drawn to,’’ Straus said. “These are objects that would not be considered lovely in their own right. But we each built upon the found objects, inventing, adding, changing. For example, all the found objects in my pieces in this show are metal that I have in some way integrated with wood, which is what I normally work in.

“In the art, I try to refer back to the sense of their having had a function. They were all at one time useful objects, and as the artist I’m giving them new life, and a new function. Some of the metal objects I chose are identifiable, and some I have no idea what they are. One is an old cheese grater. Another is a piece from an antique phonograph. Whether or not I know what they once were, I’m attracted to this sense of quirky, hand-wrought old objects that feel like they have a soul that’s waiting to reemerge.’’

Winters is the only artist in the exhibition whose work is two-dimensional. “Where Jessica, Laura, and Abbie have worked with actual objects they found, I’m recreating images on paper, images I’ve held onto in my mind from objects I’ve seen,’’ she said. “That image gets enlarged or reduced, stenciled or drawn, and regenerated into a small narrative. I think of these pieces as a poetic series about objects and how they are reconfigured.’’

“I like to think that most visitors to this exhibit will detect a sense of fun in how we’ve used the objects in our art,’’ Read said.

“These pieces are playful and inventive and allowed us as artists to explore, experiment and have some fun,’’ she said. “I imagine that viewers will leave with a sense that art can be really playful and quirky.’’

Their show continues through Feb. 19 at the Jewett Art Gallery, on the Wellesley campus at 106 Central St., where Straus and Winters will deliver a gallery talk Tuesday at 9:50 a.m.

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