In mid-December, I was fortunate to have been invited to teach at R&F paints. In addition to their stellar workshop space, R&F also has has a wonderful gallery space, which always has an interesting and engaging show. The show up while I was there was THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, FORCES AND artifacts, the work of Carol Bajen-Gahm and Pamela Blum and it was a stunner. I’ve long been a fan of Pamela’s work, but was unfamiliar with Carol’s, so it was such a pleasant surprise to just happen upon it. The muted tones, expert use of high contrast, scale and materials make both artist’s work sing, but together, the pieces were orchestral. I haven’t seen a more perfectly paired two person show than this one in a long time. Unfortunately, the show is now over, but it continues virtually here.
Pamela Blum‘s statement for the show…My small sculptures are massed objects. They suggest forces over time on anthropological body parts and cultural relics. Blum uses dominantly black and white encaustic paint surfaces to communicate polarized times and conditions such as life and death, disease vs. health, uselessness rather than usefulness, human actions as comedy and tragedy. The encaustic paint, covering wire mesh, plaster gauze, and papier maché, embodies the tension between longevity and vulnerability inherent in wax and in all things organic and inorganic.
Indebted to others’ perceptions, feelings, thoughts and beliefs, I draw from artwork of the past. The work assembles many different ways to prompt viewers, including myself, to reinterpret the work.
In an effort to communicate something essential, I use the arsenal of visual literacy: titles, form, dimensionality, expression, materials, color, position, relationship of parts to wholes, marking or lack thereof, different scales, different contexts and references to things we see every day.
I intend my work to be disturbing, funny, and sometimes sexual. The work, founded formally, conceptually, and technically in history, rests on two quotations from Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible:
“My life: What I stole from history and how I live with it.”
“Misunderstanding…is the cornerstone…of civilization.”
Carol Bajen-Gahm’s statement for the show…I have always been attracted to dark spaces: tangled roots, wells, and caves. The shifting time and spatial juxtaposition of fairy tales and dreams hold an equal fascination for me. I like to explore where my wild things are.
If you take the time to see what a fairy tale or a dream is saying, you usually end up at a deeper level of understanding where there is both the fear and the promise of the unknown.
I like to work with those dark spaces, tangled areas, time shifts and spatial juxtapositions in my work. For this series, I used the root cellars of Newfoundland as a starting point. Root cellars are used to preserve food during the cold months. I was attracted to them because they are an example of a dark space as a nurturing force, a kind of transformation by preservation.
I built the images using elements that related to the root cellars: seaweed which is used as fertilizer, and netting which is a crop protector. In some cases, I used digital transfers of actual photographs of the cellars. As I build the image at some point a state of chaos occurs – and my job is to bring the disparate elements into balance; to tame my wild things.