TALISMANS FOR TRAVELERS
Artists’ Opening Reception: Friday, August 30. 5-8pm.
Art ‘Round Town: Friday, September 6. 5-8pm. (monthly art walk in Portsmouth)
Free and open to the public.
On exhibit: August 30 – September 22
Works by: Auguste Elder (Manhattan, NY), Katrine Hildebrandt (Roslindale, MA), Andrea Thompson (Durham, NH)
“Talismans for Travelers” unites the work of Auguste Elder, Katrine Hildebrandt, and Andrea Thompson. Together, the organic shapes and materials used by each artist invite the viewer to contemplate the many paths we travel through life, and perhaps beyond.
The wood-fired ceramics in this collection reference Etruscan canopic urns and votive offerings from approximately the 5th century BCE. Etruscan urns are historically significant in that they may represent some of Western civilization’s earliest attempts at individualized portraiture: biomorphic vessels that suggest the likeness and worldly/vocational roles of the persons inurned within. Exactly why the Etruscans chose to invest the deceased with vitrified bodies is up for speculation. However, it would not be a grand leap to assume it may have been to endow the dead with a vehicle by which to continue living out their lives in some form or manner beyond the limits of the ephemeral flesh.
The impulse to look back in time to adjust our gaze forward is essential to the survival of our species. Reflexively, I leaned into these mechanisms, and borrowed these historic forms to examine our relationship to life, death, memorialization, and the beyond. While our views certainly differ on what happens to us upon our passing away, what we leave behind in the way of words, actions, objects, deeds, and legacies eventually slips into the realm of the artefactual and archeologic. I entered into a dialog with this inescapable eventuality, speculating on how signs and symbols either endure or obscure. But equally urgent was the need to hint at the lives that have passed through, and continue to populate our collective conscience. The works before you offer those hidden, at risk, lost, discarded, invisible or on the run a vehicle by which to quietly stand their ground, to bear witness, and resist.
I am often left feeling conflicted when I reflect upon my own childhood religious upbringing and my current beliefs and values. It is a troublesome subject matter for most people that affect our whole society. However, despite all the friction and chaos it may generate, there are many unifying elements that are found throughout almost all religions that unify us all. There is a peace and solace that religion practices bring, and there are the physical spaces that bring people together to worship and provide sanctuary.
My work references these sacred spaces, architectures, and geometries, drawing upon familiar visual signs or symbols and re-arranging them into inclusive and all encompassing layered maps. Every drawing is a diagram of energies and forces that aim to connect the conscious with the unconsciousness through hypnotic and trance inducing compositions. Similar to a mandala which has an entry way and center point, I wish to take the viewer on a journey through various passage ways that challenge the viewers presence and awareness.
The process of handing burning paper is ritualistic and meditative in action, but it also reflects the duality of life, permanence and transience. “For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”
In my recent work I’ve been exploring themes of journeys and mapping, looking at the subjective ways we understand place and dis-placement. A new installation created for the 3S exhibition space, Talismans for Travelers, will consist of multiple elongated forms suspended overhead, made of steam-bent oak slats and a transparent skin of fiberglass. The organic shapes will suggest boats, or perhaps seed pods or cocoons, floating above the viewer. The Talismans will evoke a long-distance journey, a migration perhaps; and although their source and destination remain mysterious, they embody the kind of plucky, improvised resilience we all need to make our way in the world.