Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Whispers from the Land: a two-person fiber show in the Four Corners

It was a real pleasure to see my recent work up on the gallery walls alongside that of Colorado quilt artist Patricia Joy at the Henderson Fine Art Gallery at San Juan College in Farmington, NM.  This exhibit was something of a last-minute opportunity that arose when the newly arrived director of the gallery, Julie Napientek, discovered there were gaps in her exhibit schedule.  Julie was a delight to work with and did a beautiful job integrating my work and Patricia's into one coherent, visually exciting show.  You can see a short video walk-through at this link on Facebook (Feb. 4 post).

view of Whispers from the Land exhibit  
Clockwise from top left:  Molly Elkind, Ashy Sun, Fold, Dark Sky, Snowgrass, Dusty Sun.  
Right: Patricia Joy, Scorched Earth. 

It's tremendously exciting to have the chance to get your work out there, especially in a one- or two-person show.  It can be tempting to say, "Heck yeah! When?  Where?" without thinking through what is involved.  Today I want to share not just the pictures of the work in a beautiful space but also take a look behind the scenes at what's involved for the exhibiting artist. 

Gathering, documenting and transporting your work for a significant show takes time and effort!  First of all you need to put it all in one place and make sure it's in good condition, mounted effectively, and labeled.  I know I have a bad habit of putting my work up on my own walls without sewing a label on the back first, and then I find I have to do that later.  For framed pieces, be sure they are in ready-to-hang condition and have labels on the back.  I also label all my packing materials so I can be sure to get them all back.  

When gathering your work, stand back and look critically when choosing what to include.  Does it seem coherent?  Do the pieces provide a useful context for each other and do they speak in a unified artistic voice?  While it might be tempting to put in everything you've done, that approach can end up looking scattered and amateurish.  

Molly Elkind.  Top: Ashfall, linen, paper grasses, ashes, matte medium.  
Bottom:  Ash Wednesday: linen, hemp, paper, cotton, ashes, matte medium.

Molly Elkind.  Left:  FarawayNearby:  cotton, wool, linen, metallic, kudzu.  
Right: SkyGramaGrass: cotton, wool, metallic.

Galleries want details about each work for a checklist:  titles, dimensions, materials, information about price or insurance value if not for sale.  They also need artist statements and images of some pieces for their own publicity. I've written herehere and here on this blog about the importance of keeping good records and of keeping them up to date, so you can respond quickly when opportunities arise.  As your visibility increases, these opportunities can come with short notice.  In fact, my significant other, Sam Elkind, had a similar last-minute opportunity for a two-person show arise recently and because he had a stack of framed work, a bio and an artist's statement at the ready, it was easy to pull off on short notice.) 

part of checklist, with notations 

Then there is the matter of getting the work to the gallery.  In this case, I live a 3.5 hour drive away from the gallery, and I was taking 15 pieces, so I opted to drive the work there.  I will make another all-day round trip to retrieve the work.  There was another round trip to attend the opening.  Because the opening was late in the day, I opted to stay overnight.  My point here is that there are hidden costs involved in participating--paying for gas, meals, and lodging.  In the initial excitement you might not think of these!  Shipping the work might be cheaper, or it might not, depending on the number and size of the pieces, the carrier, and the cost for insurance during shipping.  There's also the hidden cost of your own time, in the travel and in all the preparation in advance.  Only you can decide if the expense in time and money is worthwhile for you and your own goals. 

Finally, there's the intangible of "Is the gallery a good fit for my work?" Not having seen the San Juan College gallery, I looked at the college website and found photos that showed it was indeed a beautiful space.  It was harder to tell from the website what the art program is like, whether there were many art students and what their mediums are.  As it turned out, few students or faculty turned up at the opening, which was disappointing.  It was gratifying to see how the students who did come studied the pieces at length, analyzing the details.  It doesn't get any better for an artist!

It is always instructive to see your own work in a new setting, all hung together so it can make a full statement.  In this show with an artist also working on the theme of the western landscape, it was especially interesting to note how we speak in different voices and styles about similar subjects. Farmington is in the heart of oil-and-gas country, and Patricia's piece entitled The Real Western Landscape is a pointed commentary on the plundering of the West for fossil fuels.  My own recent work considers in a very different style the close juxtaposition of human and wild habitats and the challenges that poses.  I hope viewers of the exhibit will be prompted to ponder these kinds of things as well.  

Patricia Joy, The Real Western Landscape,
artist-dyed fabrics, commercial fabrics, threads, shredded currency

Patricia Joy, The Real Western Landscape
artist-dyed fabrics, commercial fabrics, threads, shredded currency, detail

Molly Elkind, clockwise from top left:  WUI: platted; WUI: co-exist; Woven Grasses; WUI: ashen; WUI: mark this.  Linen, paper, plastic survey marking whiskers, ashes, grasses.  
WUI is short for wildland-urban interface. 

View my recent work in more detail on my website

Whispers from the Land will be on view at the Henderson Fine Art Gallery at San Juan College in Farmington, NM through Feb. 24.  Hours for the gallery are 10-5, Monday-Friday.