Multimedia rock star Sheila Gallagher and “extreme woodworker” Darren Foote will be exploring the issue of divinity in relationship to our western everyday lives.
Gallagher, known for her experimental mediums, will be contributing a video, three smoke paintings and a digital Mandala made from the pages of her daily planner. She explains “All of the work is interested in what happens when the quotidian or the daily or the everyday bumps up against the eternal or the non-time. They’re all meditations on that.” Her work is largely conceptual but very beautiful which many theorists have described as aesthetically divine. “I think a lot of people consider conceptual art to not revel in the physical or the beautiful and I’m just not willing to throw that baby out with the bath water.” Making things beautiful is a clever way to seduce one’s audience to consideration of critical concepts. “I definitely try to use the visual as a hook to start to deal with some other issues.” And she is successful. We can’t help but look, and when we do we can’t help but reflect.
The Mandala, made from pages dating from 1987 up until 2009, is a very interesting piece, exploring the Western approach to bliss through time control. It is a relatively passionate view of our crazy overbooked lives. People look to the east for wisdom about how to slow down but this piece almost validates our pursuit of bliss through incremented time. “I’m of two minds. On one level I really yearn to be a monk but my daily life I function much more like an air traffic controller – trying to avoid disaster on a millisecond basis. “ she says. The Mandala is directly based on the Tibetan Kalachakra Mandala. With this project she was exploring “what would happen if I took the geometric rigor of the Kalachakra Mandala, which is a tool for meditation, and had it bump up against my daily list of things to do and my daily calendar going back like twenty years.”
Gallagher is famous for her smoke paintings. The process for these is strenuous and heartbreaking. She suspends a canvas from the ceiling of her studio and burns different substances like birthday candles and tea lights to make different carbon marks. An entire smoke palette has developed through her experimentation with different smoke producing materials. “I like trying to order chaos” says Sheila. “Its like painting with a genie”. There is a grappling with mortality that comes with these massively impermanent mediums. “A lot of the materials I use have a limited life span and in that way they act as reminders of our existential condition.” Sheila is trying to remind herself of the imminent possibility of death. “When I’m thinking like that I tend to be more appreciative.”
Foote is completing his light series, a collection of wooden sculptures depicting light rays made of wood interacting with household objects like tables and chairs. The light in these pieces, according to Darren, represents a higher power. “I grew up with a very outside perspective on strict religion.” Darren grew up non-Mormon in a Mormon community. He has been exploring people’s relationship with the divine ever since.
“ I think this is a reflection of how I see people responding to It.” he said. The initial part of the collection shows a series of chairs and tables being unaffected by the light rays shooting out of the lamps. In this portion, the light rays are interfering – violently. The light has agency and is affecting those around it. “Not only is it physical but its actually manipulating objects that its interacting with. “ says Darren. “While there’s a place for those earlier pieces and the tranquility that I hope was there, the more I thought about it the more I felt like it wasn’t the whole story. There’s more to this element than just being there.” All of the sculptures – light and furniture - are made of the same wood. “I think that’s just my way of saying that we’re all made of the same thing” says Foote of this choice. The furniture is so simplified it has become completely nondescript. Speaking of his motivation to use common objects, Foote said “They’re a very quick means to tapping into a person’s sense of nostalgia or memory”.
This show is writhe with wit and existential exhilaration. Both artists are making interesting challenging art and it will be excellent to see the final collection.
Judi Rotenberg Gallery
February 5 - March 1, 2009, Opening Reception February 12th, 6-8pm