Collaborative Matters (According to the Colorful Vision of Elizabeth Mead)
by Kendall Berents
Linda Matney’s recent art exhibition, entitled “Matter,” spoke to an artistic impulse that I haven’t seen expressed anywhere else, and I’m grateful for the perspective. It made me see the connection between words and images. It made me associate the deep reds and oranges of this Fall foliage with poetry by Frost and Eliot that I’d long forgotten. It made me appreciate the last, vibrant moments of this beautiful, autumn season with a conscious reflection on the art that is waiting to emerge if only we will give it our proper attention.
Elizabeth Mead’s group exhibition, entitled “Matter,” emphasizes the importance of collaborative arts. Mixing visual artwork with the written word, and combining the voices and visions of nineteen different artists, she proves that the arts are meant to be complimentary and inclusive, playing with the colors and contrasts that run throughout all artwork.
“While color is inherently present in all things visual and often in language, the imposition of it may be revealing, subtle or forceful,” Mead said in her statement on the exhibit. “Color enhances the intensity of our experience.”
Lee Matney, the owner and director of the Linda Matney Fine Art Gallery where Mead’s exhibition is on display, is known for developing thematic and contemporary group shows. “Matter” is such an exhibition, inspiring visitors to contemplate the importance of artistic medias. It causes viewers to question how they see the world and, more importantly, where they are looking.
Mead’s placement of the artwork is purposeful but seemingly spontaneous, with orange and blue flowers hanging on the same wall as orange and blue bowls, split by prose about the color yellow. This theme of similarity and reflection, without direct replication, is seen throughout the exhibition. Particularly in the aforementioned piece with the orange and blue flowers, where Sarah Masters painted a reflection of lilies above Kasey Jueds poetry, again emphasizing the importance of joining artists and their different mediums. I stood in front of the painting searching for the words underneath, wondering why the poem was chosen, and seeking a meaning that was not inherently given. Feeling Mead’s artistic vision working on me first-hand, I was delighted to uncover the rest of the exhibition, one piece, one artist, and one color at a time.
Walking into the exhibition, the L-shaped gallery was partitioned into two sections. The front was dominated by the orange and blue artwork, with the reflection on the color yellow. Placed directly in front of the orange and blue lily painting was a striking sculpture by Jason Lowery, where he stitched three brown strips into the formation of a lily, closely resembling Master’s painting. The corner cluster of lilies creates an interesting repetition. Immediately fooled into believing the exhibition is focused on warmly colored flowers, I then turned to the left wall, greeted by an array of glasswork, photography, and rainbow hues.
All of the pieces are similar in size, matching the dimensions of the written pages, with enough blank space in between for the eye to focus on each individual piece, while still maintaining a concept for the whole. Much like Jane Kelley’s poem, where she writes: “COLOR is what you see when you read my black words on the white page.” Looking at the white wall, COLOR is what I saw between the writers black words.
Colors like the deep blues in Deborah Barlow’s breathtaking glasswork, or the dark, bloody reds dripping out of metallic paint cans in Tom Moore’s photography. These were two of my favorite pieces, evoking both deep emotion and painstaking detail.
To the right of these pieces, Martha Jones painted a series of colorful, squiggling lines on a white canvas. The bright pink and yellow streaks stand out against the red and orange color palette. Much like Mead’s curating, the lines originally appear haphazard and spontaneously driven. But, when considering the collection of color and images on the whole, there is a subtle imposition of form that transcends normal structures.
As a writer myself, this wall also held two of my favorite written reflections. They both told a story – dark, lonesome stories – that somehow matched the painful, yet hopeful, thematic approach of the exhibition itself. The first piece was written by Carey Bagdassarian about a man in a nursing home asking for pizza. The final line reads: “And I pretended that I didn’t hear your longing, Dad. Though I did, and do to this day.” It made me want to leave the gallery and send a pizza to my own father, not because he’s in a nursing home, but because I was moved. Deeply moved.
Just as I was in Emily Pease’s poetry about butter teeth. Another of my favorite reflections, written with various font sizes and line structures, “Yellow” tells a story about tension between two young boys, and how Roy Cozart defeats bully Steve Sheen “with a yellow word like butter.” It shows the power of color, the power of language, and, more deeply, the power of seeing truth when no one else is bothering to look.
The “Matter” exhibition has transformed my creative thinking, and it’s making me believe more deeply in the power behind what we see and how we express our individual visions. Thank you, Elizabeth Mead, for having the courage to put such a colorful collaboration together.