The Brand Library and Art Center sit like elegant white plaster cake toppers perched on high green hills flanked by bustling baseball fields and a park full of trotting, happy children. A fairly formal flight of smooth concrete stairs leads gallery-goers upward, delivering them into a large, airy foyer which immediately welcomes guests to the inspirational, emotive, six-artist group exhibition, “thread/bare.”
Curator Yoram Gil gave each of the six featured artists their own, perfectly spaced, sacred zones of contemplation in the gallery. Sections of space which honor artist as well as beholder, allowing for meditative viewing that feels focused and relaxed, like a float down a warm river rich with sensual surroundings. I spoke with Gil on opening night, and asked him if he is currently making art of his own. Gesturing toward the artwork (hung ever so lovingly on the walls) with outspread arms he said to me, “these walls, this is my work, these are my paint brushes.”
Attend, admire, and appreciate each realm of Yoram’s perfectly-placed, six woman showcase of threads bared inside the Brand Library and Art Center. All six thread/bare artists are affiliated with Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, California. Photos in this article by L. Aviva Diamond.
thread/bare | The Brand Library and Art Center
Opening Reception: June 6, 7:00 – 9:00PM
Artist talk with Shana Nys Dambrot on June 18 at 7PM
Exhibition Dates: May 16 – July 18,2015
From left: Nurit Avesar, Janet Neuwalder, Elana Kundell, Susan Kurland, Sigrid Orlet, and Peggy Pownall photographed by Jennifer Jones on June 6th, 2015.
Featured first, like canvas squares containing colorful notes on a wall of sheet music, are the intuitively balanced, soul-stirring paintings of Elana Kundell. Heavily inspired by music, Kundell uses knives, brushes, fingers, and cloth to blend, flick, smear and twist color onto canvas the way a musician’s hand brings music to ears. The result is layers of vibrant colors and various textures that are at once both visually and emotionally absorbed compositions that leave you wishing to hear the music that inspired them.
Slowly meditate, contemplate, your way along Kundell’s visually musical paintings and enter the gallery where you find yourself enraptured by the work of five female artists. Each expertly deliver texture and layers in the form of woven thread, clear tubing, bare root trees, shards of porcelain, handmade paper, melted plastic, and a plethora of paint.
Sigrid Orlet’s mixed media paintings evoke an aged sacredness, each layer deliberately applied to the canvas the way memories layer themselves in the convolutions of our soft pink brains. Her paintings feel necessary and heavy – as rich as the backgrounds are built with layers – yet as light and delicate as the dry brush that dances across their textured surfaces. An excerpt from Orlet’s artist statement meshes well with another of her pieces, a site-specific installation of earth-brown bare root trees leaning along the white gallery walls in varying angles: “I am concerned with unearthing the roots of being human as an aspect of the coherent whole of existence.” The trees are fragile and naked without the soil they were once accustomed to – their roots are exposed. Instead of standing tall, they set raw and unbalanced atop the polished floor, inspiring introspection.
The bright, bold, mixed media work of Nurit Avesar brings your eyes into an energetic snowstorm of fragmented color. Each painting is layered with purposeful explosions of torn paper and paint guiding observers into a specific state of energy which is unique to each piece: fragments of coral and turquoise zig and zag atop ivory paint, evoking feelings of ripe moisture in one piece, while swirled creamy lavender underlays meandering curves of multi-colored paper in another, creating a sense of calm one might experience while watching fish swim slowly through a pastel pond.
Oil, watercolor, and acrylic artist Peggy Pownall is a master craftswoman: a patient, steady-handed seamstress, precision painter, and visionary integrator. Pownall carefully, deliberately disassembles her own old paintings and places them into new, impressively large and detailed works, layering pieces of old maps and sewing patterns into paintings by sewing them in with thread. The circles in her work – perfectly cut out and stitched on in some works, and painted directly on canvas in others – evoke a feeling of compartmentalized composure among chaos. She states, “Recent paintings reflect the search for life’s elusive equilibrium. They explore the tension between anxiety and contentment, chaos and order, referencing loss of innocence and remembrance of wholeness.”
The inspiration for Susan Kurland’s work comes from “the needlework that women have done over the centuries as creative expression at home and in the factory.” Like other-worldly flower specimens pressed between the glass of giant microscope slides, the detailed intricacies of Kurland’s weaving and integrated fabric work is worth studying up close. In another body of work, her grandmother’s dismantled wooden rocking chair hangs in flat sections, each antique piece hugged by what feels like a symbol for memories of those we cherished: webbed threads lovingly applied and carefully tied in patterns.
Sculptor and installation artist Janet Neuwalder’s “modern fossils” resemble precious cast offs in a palette reminiscent of the finest espresso bathed in creamy milk: shell pieces and flotsam left over as the tide fell; the precious selections of a shore wanderer. Only these pieces were created by Neuwalder- out of porcelain, handmade paper – and not found. The fragments are expertly placed in disparate yet cohesive compositions of form and color. Her site-specific installation piece is an absolute must see, and to see is to look with an open mind: vanilla shards, flakes of snow, bouquets of neutral flowers with plastic tubing stems; diminutive angels rising up to the heavens. Your mind will impress what it needs to see at that time, which can also be said regarding Neuwalder’s Rorschach-style inkblots made from melted black plastic pressed on squares of handmade paper. Indeed, as stated in Neuwalder’s bio, she “creates rich narratives, a dialogue between the physical processing of ceramic materials, the poetic personal, and a space for pause and questioning.”