“(un)spoken,” the current exhibition at New Haven’s Artspace gallery, provides thoughtful insight on the crossover between art and marriage.
Artspace commissioned three artist-couples from the Northeast to produce paintings, sculptures and photography for the new exhibit. The collaborative pieces are displayed inside Gallery 1, while individual works of each artist are shown in the other six galleries at the Orange Street gallery. By juxtaposing collaborative and individual work, the exhibition is a compelling exploration of how an artist’s personal style transforms within the context of collaboration with his or her spouse.
Artist-couple Karen Dow ART ’98 and Christoper Mir reside in the New Haven area. Dow is an abstract painter, using palette knives and acrylic paints on panel, while Mir is a figurative painter, applying oil paints on woven canvas with horsehair brushes. Dow’s paintings, which are hung in Gallery 4, feature geometric shapes in emerald green, amethyst purple, sapphire blue and other jewel-tones to represent the underlying structure and organic form of an object. On the other hand, Mir’s paintings, hung in Gallery 7, depict a surreal world of creatures and machines interacting in unexpected settings.
Their oil-on-canvas collaboration synthesizes elements from each artist’s personal approach to painting into a unified composition. Dow and Mir find common ground in the natural world, weaving together flowers, a spiderweb and a communications tower to form a landscape that is simultaneously abstract and surreal. Dow’s trademark jewel-toned shapes create an abstract rendering of a flower; the same flower is also represented by Mir’s realistic portrayals. By applying their distinct visions to the same object, Dow and Mir demonstrate that divergent styles do not necessarily conflict. The piece illustrates that, like a marriage, both participants contribute to create a union.
Unlike Dow and Mir, artist-couple Linda Ganjian and Jesse Lambert work in different mediums. Ganjian’s sculptures, shown in Gallery 4, incorporate architectural elements like Middle Eastern minarets, Russian onion domes and American urban grids. She creates pieces by weaving together cutouts of black and gold cardboard and paper into intricate, delicate sculptures. Lambert, who is a painter, creates striking images. His paintings, hung in Gallery 5, are vivid, colored tessellations that incorporate natural elements like branches and leaves.
But together, like Dow and Mir, Ganjian and Lambert blend their skills: they produced an animated series of geometric floor sculptures, constructed out of children’s toys, such as furry blocks and teething rings, which conjures images of a whimsical playpen. While the eye-catching sculptures display elements of each artist’s individual pieces, they reveal a complex marriage between intricate form and bold colors.
The last couple, another painter-sculptor duo, Maggie Michael and Dan Steinhilber, immerse the viewer in a new medium. In their collaboration — a series of 66 digital photographs taken in 2008 and 2009 that document shared moments — the couple departs from their standard mediums. In several images, they capture the spirit of President Barack Obama’s historic inauguration, revealing a sea of people looking off into the distance. Other images are simply portraits of each other, depicting how Michael envisions Steinhilber and vice versa.
But for this couple, their works apart better represent the scope of each artist’s talent. Michael’s paintings, shown in Gallery 3, use stenciled words, spray paint, nails, texture, drip technique and muted colors, placing the viewer in an industrial setting. Steinhilber’s nontraditional sculptures, shown in Gallery 2, are clever manipulations of everyday materials — including a floor-to-ceiling tower of black garbage bags, a tapestry of bits of different colored shopping bags ironed together and a video of packing peanuts being blown by a leaf-blower.
The director of communications at Artspace, Jemma Williams, said the concept of (un)spoken has already sparked the curiosity of New Haven’s thriving artist community. By merging a discussion about marriage and artistic creation, the show compels the viewer to ponder how artist-couples can combine their talents to produce artistic synergy.
The strength of the show is in its ability to capture how the dynamics of marriage can play a vibrant role in the artistic process.
The name (un)spoken refers to the tacit exchange between the artist-couples as they collaborate. The exhibition will be on view until June 6.