One of my favorite superpowers of visual art is how it can make sense of the confusing, annoying, frightening, or oddball things we all encounter in life. In my formative years as a student, Jeff Koons’ ceramic sculptures of pigs, puppies, and pop icons made my grandmother’s living room a setting I could no longer discredit as simply old-fashioned. Robert Rauschenberg’s flattened cardboard boxes and socks stuck onto canvases made even alleyway rubbish seem to have the potential for a new, stylish life. Whether driven by social critique, theory, or design, visual art contains worlds where content and imagery can follow a higher logic than they seem to in real time.
This March at Kingston Gallery, solo exhibitions by Julie Graham and Joetta Maue integrate familiar material, including their own art work, to push their respective practices in new directions and transform their chosen media. Graham’s work is in the Main and Center Galleries, and Maue’s work is in the Member’s Gallery. Although the two artists’ exhibitions have different subject matter and influences, the similarities are worthy of noting.
Julie Graham‘s exhibition, If it’s not one thing… shows photographs with her paintings for the first time. As an artist, her driving impulse is to seek and resolve the unexpected. Graham often incorporates found objects and materials that are associated with architecture, including spackle and plaster. The resulting surfaces are complex and reminiscent of remote places, eras, and moods. Her painting Chevron is hung on an adjacent wall from a square-format photograph Chevron: Redux. The photograph captures a detail of the painting. The filtered, cropped image, seen apart from the painting, could be part of a road sign; the dried paint texture could be years of wear from exposure to weather. The close proximity to the painting and resulting change in scale form a drama between the two works, but each piece also thrives independently. They do not need each other, but one riffs on the other. Graham’s process references our post-digital world, where we often see artwork first online or via Instagram feeds.
Joette Maue begins with familiar, personal aspects of her domestic life to inspire her new body of work. Her embroidery, photographs, and drawings take in the disarray of parenthood: toys left in a jumble, laundry that is always in process but never done, and houseplants that may or may not have been sufficiently watered. Primarily working in fibers, Maue’s exhibition in transition… incorporates other media, featuring three large drawings and a grid of eight photographs arranged as four diptychs. Maue drew her own crocheted fibers by projecting and enlarging her subject to make still-life details of the threads. She makes something new by examining something else she made, as Graham does with her photographs hanging on a nearby wall. The drawings enabled Maue to change up her studio time and pace of production at a time when her personal life was recalibrating. The photographs are grounding and meditative views of domestic spaces that provide a setting for her textile piece, wash dry fold repeat, which echoes the rhythms of care that accompany motherhood.