Political Playground: Abstraction and Figuration Face Off in Jennifer Moses’ Rock, Paper, Scissors 

At Kingston Gallery, Jennifer Moses’ Rock, Paper, Scissors uses a playful visual language to convey the political frustrations of our time.  

Pow, flashe and ink on Yupo. Jennifer Moses, 2021. 

What kind of political art might suit our current climate? A new COVID-19 variant and its ensuing closures have once again returned; President Biden, who as a candidate called for a strong federal government response to the pandemic, has now seemingly flip-flopped. This nonsense can’t be contained in the adult world’s 24-hour news cycle alone; it is political child’s play, the stuff of cartoons. In Rock, Paper, Scissors, on view through January 16, Jennifer Moses takes us back to the playground for a playful and cynical view of this day and age.

The compositions of Rock, Paper, Scissors are flat yet full of movement. Moses works in ink and flashe, a medium which she loves in part because, as she says, “light doesn’t emanate from it, it kind of sucks up the light in an interesting way.” This combination of ink and flashe is a pleasant surprise to the eye. Inherent in flashe is a bold and colorful matte surface, which lends itself well to Moses’ combination of abstract and representational shapes. The black and white ink serves as a compelling textural counterpoint to the flat shapes, replacing the viewer’s expectation of a comic book landscape with something more ironic. Inspired by artists such as Phillip Guston, Stuart Davis, Matisse, and Jacob Lawrence, Moses’ results manage to strike the notoriously difficult balance of being both politically engaged and aesthetically interesting. 

Jennifer Moses, Rock paper scissors 2, gouache on paper. 2021. 

Despite how immediate these pieces look, their process is time-consuming and labor-intensive. The material of flashe itself is thick and can only be worked over so often before the surface becomes impossible to work with. Likewise, Moses’ cartoonish imagery is in fact the result of a long history of experimentation. She is influenced by Sienese medieval paintings, which she says struck her as “very abstract despite their nature of storytelling. Although they are composed of biblical figures and representational spaces, they’re flat and stylized.” In the early aughts, Moses grew tired of figuration, so she transitioned away from the figure, “lifting objects from art history” as she puts it. She zoomed into these compositions, painting the parts of the figure––the hairdos, robes, and other things––that inspired her. She’s been exploring the boundaries between figuration and abstraction ever since. At one point in her artistic evolution, Moses experimented with both painting and collage in the same pieces. Despite leaving collage behind, that influence is still evident in her work today. The disparate shapes she creates all seem to be at odds with each other, abstract and figurative facing off in a heated debate. 

Night, Kay Walkingstick. 1991.
Chase II and Onetwothreeshoot. Jennifer Moses, 2021.

One of the most compelling aspects of Rock, Paper, Scissors is in its pairing of paintings, several in diptych-like arrangements. Often used in religious art, diptychs typically present a narrative. Artists like Kay Walkingstick, however, have used the form to contrast two parts of a piece, emphasizing their emotional rather than visual connections. In Night (1991), Walkingstick used the diptych to show Ithaca’s gorges on one side and her “internal spiritual comprehension” in the other, creating a visual representation of grief after her husband’s death. At Kingston, Jennifer Moses has paired her paintings like diptychs, creating the sensation that these works are all bumping heads. The pairing of Chase II and Onetwothreeshoot extends each works’ combative effect past the canvas. The figures in Chase II almost seem to be running away from Onetwothreeshoot, whose clenched fists look menacing in comparison. This movement leads the viewer through the rest of the show, as if compelling them to turn the pages of a comic book. Later, the ghostly form from Onetwothreeshoot returns––as if having lost his battle.

Rock, paper. Ink on Yupo paper. Jennifer Moses, 2021. 

At this point in the pandemic, Americans are more frazzled than ever, yet political solutions have led to an endless stalemate. Perhaps by retreating to the straightforward logic of the comic book, we can escape this current reality, or even dream up more compelling solutions. Critical yet still playful, Rock, Paper, Scissors is a refreshing break from the mayhem. 

Linda Leslie Brown’s “Entangled” Imagines Survival in the Post-Anthropocene Era

This November, Brown’s sculptures harness ideas of genetic recombination and transmutation, bringing new life to discarded objects.

Entangled (installation view), 2021. Image courtesy of the artist. 

As I walked into the Kingston Gallery on November 5th, I felt as if I’d entered a scientific laboratory, a exotic animal mating ritual, and a taxidermy store all at once. These life-and-death contradictions are key to Linda Leslie Brown’s Entangled, on view through November 28. The exhibit presents a fascinating set of sculptures made from ceramic and found objects alike, reimagining Darwin’s ideas of sexual reproduction and genetic recombination for the anthropocene. Each piece has a surprising vitality, despite their composition from discarded objects.

The impressions these sculptures create are both exciting and disturbing. Upon first glance, the large square table in the center of the exhibit draws the eye. It’s clinical yet inviting, like some strange combination of an operating table and a dinner party. (Whether these creatures are at a singles event or being served for dinner, it’s hard to say.) On the table, there is a series of sculpture-creatures, all splayed out next to each other and attached—or entangled—to the others with a colorful plastic tube. Their interconnectedness is both a hopeful and an ominous sign. Brown’s ceramic pieces bend and curve, like toothpaste tubes or pieces of coral. Found objects, from birch branches to circuit boards, coexist in the sculptures’ hybrid forms. More works are affixed to the wall: Lively and colorful, they bear a striking resemblance to butterflies pinned to boards. 

Brown sees her sculptures not as living things, but as fossilized remains: “​​These are sort of after-lives,” she says. Despite this “fossilized” quality, there is something remarkably alive about her work. 

These dual life-like and cadaverous qualities are the result of both the process and the project of her work: making something beautiful from capitalist ruins, teasing something life-like out of decay and waste. 

Aerial Lavender, ceramic and mixed media. 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.

Brown has a nonlinear work process that matches this ethos. She doesn’t start with a strong conceptual controlling idea. Rather, she begins the process by intuitively creating a ceramic sculpture. This process is tactile; she lets the material of the piece guide her. Once the clay is fired, it’s ready for what she calls “assembly mode:” looking for objects that fit the shape and sensibility of the clay. Thanks to her husband, Ari Montford’s, tradition of long, scavenging walks in Boston, Linda now has a pile of found objects in her studio—a veritable treasure trove waiting to be explored and repurposed.

The look and feel of Brown’s work is reminiscent of the “exquisite corpses,” those collaborative drawing projects pioneered by the Surrealists. These “corpses”—which emerge by folding the drawing over, each artist concealing their part of the work from collaborators—are known for their dreamy and nightmarish qualities. Brown’s work shares the Surrealists’ whimsical-yet-grotesque sensibility. Her sculptures appear as though they’ve been worked on intuitively, following the whims of the material rather than a preconceived plan. Instead of collaborating with others, then, Brown collaborates with the variables and uncertainties of the found objects and clay. She never knows what she’ll find on the streets, or what textures and shapes will emerge from the kiln.

Variant Pink C, ceramic and mixed media, 2021. 

This exquisite corpse sensibility is perhaps best expressed in Variant Pink C. In it, a plastic tube flows through what looks to be the bust of a doll; a crop of fur is embedded in the back of the piece. Holes and bubbles make an equal appearance, showcasing the vulnerability of these materials. Is this all one organism? It’s hard to believe that this is the work of just one person. It looks like something out of Beetlejuice, or Trenton Doyle Hancock’s Mind of the Mound: Where the latter two were created entire fantasy worlds with their own logic, Brown summons fantastical creatures from everyday monotony. 

In this, she takes inspiration from Yuyi Agematsu, a sculptor whose media of choice include cigarette butts and other detritus. Brown loves the way Agematsu “builds these fantastic little sculptures, things that are totally cast off, and never in a million years would be considered art supplies. Rotted plastic bags, you both pull those out of a tree, and then take them and tease them into shapes that look completely alive.” 

Lavender Balance, ceramic and mixed media, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist. 

This sense of recombination and rebirth is integral to Brown’s work, as her practice is intricately tied to her surrounding environment. In a recent arts residency at Monson Arts Center, located close to the end of the Appalachian Trail, Brown achieved a sort of mental rebirth of her own. The location of the residency was remote, yet still occupied: In the intersection between the distant rural landscape and the presence of Appalachian Trail hikers, it seems she had an experience of aesthetic renewal. 

Especially now, as the current pandemic’s effects gradually lessen, Brown is ready to venture off into the world and continue this aesthetic exploration.  

“There’s not been a lot of outside influence happening. And I’m hungry for that,” Brown said. “Now, I really want to get out more, look at more work, and think about other artists’ work. I’d like to go to New York again, you know, and do all of those things that we didn’t do because of the pandemic. I’d like to stretch a little bit. It just felt very confined.”

As humanity comes out of the last species-threatening event (and, very likely,  into the next one), Brown’s work seems to hope for a second chance for life. In her artist statement, she refers to the possibility of sexual reproduction and transmutation to produce new possibilities for survival: “I imagine that such adaptations may be occurring even now: in the depths of mother ocean, among our gut bacteria, or nested in mycelium tendrils wrapped around the roots of trees.”

Linda Leslie Brown’s Entangled, on view through November 28, is an exhibition for a strange and hybrid future—though perhaps not a lifeless one. 

Matter Out of Place: Domestic and Wild Scenes from Joan Baldwin’s Inner World

In Baldwin’s October 2021 exhibition, the natural and the domestic world are at odds—and there are no human subjects in sight.

In our lingering climate (of) crisis, interruptions and inconveniences come as no surprise. In just the past month, we’ve seen persistent supply chain hiccups, a 6-hour Facebook outage in early October, and the further acceleration of the “Great Resignation,” with an unprecedented number of Americans quitting their jobs. Given the ongoing pandemic and climate crisis, “normality” seems silly to reach for at this point. There are so many disruptions at play these days that there is a slim chance of making sense of it all. Sometimes, the most we can do is sit with the strangeness.

Joan Baldwin’s October exhibition at the Kingston Gallery does just that. Her two exhibits “Above and Beyond” (Main Gallery) and “Uninvited Guests” (Center Gallery) are a meditation on ‘matter out of place,’ to borrow anthropologist Mary Douglas’ term. In the Main Gallery, “Above and Beyond” shows a series of figurative yet surreal landscapes with couches and crows vying for dominance. Meanwhile, “Uninvited Guests” in the Center Gallery promises a three-wall installation resembling the window views of Baldwin’s Cape Cod home, with moths and other odd creatures sneaking in. The two shows are quite different in form, yet both promise worlds where our expectations have been suspended in favor of something stranger. These are worlds that beg to be unraveled.

Throughout the show, there is a subject that keeps reappearing: furniture. This comes from Joan Baldwin’s own background as an illustrator. Before pursuing work as a full time artist, she made artwork for the furniture industry and for a newspaper. While she’s retired from commercial illustration now, Baldwin still finds herself drawn to painting furniture. Now, she has the creative freedom to put a surreal twist on it.

“When I was doing the illustration for the trade shows,” Baldwin said in an interview, “I had to have it exactly the way [the object] looked. And so I was really kind of constrained.” In her current work, she allows herself to be more spontaneous. With this latest exhibit she has tried to emulate the process of Gustav Klimt, whom she admires for “letting the brush go where it wants to go without him planning the strokes.” In the bottom of Ruffles, we see this spontaneity in action. As if abandoning the figurative project mid-stroke, Joan’s brushstrokes dash off, escaping the confines of their literal origins and leaving the subject with a few metaphorical flourishes. These “ruffles” merge into the landscape surrounding the chair, and, like the show as a whole, the painting becomes a hybrid of literal and surreal impulse. 

Ruffles, oil on canvas, 2020.

One of Joan’s main inspirations is her Cape Cod house, which she appreciates for its untamed beauty: “you can go for a long walk and not even run into anybody,” she said of it. “It’s really beautiful and kind of wild.” 

Despite Baldwin’s clear soft spot for human-free landscapes, there’s still an element of humanity in her work. This human influence is most evident in Garden Toast. In the painting, a wine bottle spills out onto an empty pink chair, with a matching set of pink heels haphazardly parked in the grass. This landscape has touches of the human—the shoes, the wine—and the chair itself is a charming substitute for the human subject. According to Baldwin, when she first put the furniture into her landscapes, she was initially surprised that the chairs she painted “took on a personality of their own.” Presented with a landscape that was nonetheless full of human influence, I was free to invent a narrative for the painting. 

Garden Toast, oil on canvas, 2020.

While the absence of humans allows for narrative world-building in “Above and Beyond,” it also allows insects and creatures to sneak in in their place — something that Baldwin’s Artist Statement says can “make your life miserable.” We see this in “Uninvited Guests.” In the Center Gallery, a series of fantastical creatures sneak into a recreation of Baldwin’s Cape Cod Home, a setup she has described as “almost like a theater set.” Wild creatures, for Baldwin, are not compatible with the order and organization of the human world. Still, she asserts this wildlife is “worth studying, labeling, categorizing and mounting on boards with pins.” 

Uninvited Guests. Installation view.

This statement is worth unpacking: why the need to study these creatures scientifically? After the whimsical and magical “Above and Beyond,” it is unusual to introduce the scientific method. Despite the uninhibited boundary crossing between the domestic and the wild in “Above and Beyond,” this statement reveals a wish to keep the wilderness under control. It is an urge to scientifically understand, I think, what can only be intuitively and emotionally understood. It’s reminiscent of our cultural moment, where so much is inexplicable and out of place. (Note: these works were produced in 2020 at the height of the pandemic.) I see this scientific urge as a desire to understand and cope with the ever-present crises of this age. With some categorization and some science, Baldwin might hope (as do we) that we can solve or at least understand the disruptions we’ve gone through. 

Part of this scientific urge may come from aging and grief. In our interview, Baldwin shared that “As you get older, the older generation dies, and then you start accumulating other people’s things. It’s not like we pick them out. As you get older and you look around, you go, ‘wow, we have this strange combination of things we’ve gotten from other people.’” Thus, the familiar space of the home becomes increasingly filled with memorabilia from other’ past lives. Objects loaded with memories are stiltedly fit into someone else’s life. These objects are the true uninvited guests, and they haunt Baldwin’s work.“It brings back memories, you know? I know that they would want us to treasure what they’ve given us or put some value to it, not just give it away to somebody else,” she says. Although these objects are uninvited, that doesn’t mean they aren’t welcome. Baldwin’s show is an imaginative attempt to make sense of that which is so clearly out of place. 

A personal favorite is Morning Moth. If the rest of the show is mystifying in its balance between the domestic and wild, this work is a clear exception. Wild branches and leaves easily embrace the subject of the painting, a cozy cabin-like space—creating a frame-within-a-frame around the subject that is almost nest-like. In this snug frame, a larger-than-life moth, small bird, and miniscule chair coexist, oddly yet peaceably. Though this surreal sense of scale might have been puzzling, by the time I had reached this work I embraced its logic immediately. While most of the work in “Above and Beyond” elicited questions, this work presented a clear and friendly opportunity to admire. 

Morning Moth, oil on canvas. 2020.

In Baldwin’s show, certain questions seem to want to be asked: What are the rules of these strange mindscapes? Can we feel at home here? After a walk through the Kingston’s October exhibit, asking these questions becomes more important than answering them. Baldwin’s exhibition is fit for coping with a world that has stopped making sense. It is a pleasant and puzzling surprise. In this whimsical series, Baldwin has invited us all into a fantastically strange and refreshing world—and it is an invitation that I wholeheartedly recommend you accept.

Baldwin’s show is on view through October 31. Catch it before it’s gone!

Kledia Spiro: Too (un)Familiar?

by Margaret Goddard

“It’s a Family Practice” Video Still, 2021, Dimensions Variable

It can be hard, if not impossible, for someone born and raised in the U.S. to understand an immigrant’s struggle. In Kledia Spiro’s video performance It’s a Family Practice, she has the insider play outsider for once. The piece was part of her solo show Too (un)Familiar? at Boston’s Kingston Gallery this spring, along with installation art, photography, and augmented reality. The performance explores her family’s experience immigrating from Albania through the lens of weightlifting, a tool Kledia uses often in her art. The performance was filmed this past winter during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the family was living under the same roof for the first time since they moved to the U.S.

While Kledia was weightlifting one day last summer, she wrote in her journal, “When people judge art on what art is they look at two things: how familiar it is so they can relate, and how too familiar it is so they can disregard. It’s a fine line and the public is a harsh critic.” People who aren’t artists or art consumers sometimes find abstract art too familiar and thus devoid of meaning, saying, “How is that considered art? A child could do that.” On the other end of the spectrum, people can find art alienating: as if it is only meant to be understood by some elite class. Kledia’s mission in It’s a Family Practice was to straddle that line, allowing the viewer who is typically an insider feel like an outsider, and vice versa.

It begins with a flock of geese following each other in a swoop across a split-channel screen. Kledia, her sister Erinda, her mother Linda, and her father Dion follow each other’s footsteps through the snow, carrying a welded barbell with seats on either end. Clips of Kledia weightlifting in different settings and times of year cut in and out to the beat of a heavy barbell’s clink. Her parents sit on each end of the barbell and make conversation while Kledia and Erinda help each other put on their weightlifting belts. The sisters squat, do jumping jacks and do push ups in sync.

As Linda and Dion talk, the sisters make coffee and serve it to their parents on a bumper plate. Her parents’ voices are soft and full of love to my ignorant ear, and I wanted to understand the Albanian words. I thought I heard English and Spanish words I knew like “No more snow,” “Ok, thank you,” “espinaca,” and “temperatura” but I couldn’t be sure. I continued to strain to pick up clues of what they were saying. They laughed at something with each other.

“It’s a family Practice” Video Still, 2021. Dimensions Variable.

A lively music takes over as the sisters try to lift their parents up. The two channels no longer form a single shot and go out of sync. Sometimes the screen is mirrored so it looks like the same person is on each end of the barbell, trying to lift it. Linda gets up from her seat to help her daughters lift their father. Finally, Dion puts his coffee down and gets up too, and all four are able to lift the barbell.

The music changes again and they grab each other’s hands and dance around the barbell. The snow makes it hard to dance, but they dance anyway. They dance on their own and then hold hands again. Finally they settle down, sitting in a row. Each channel shows a different take of this scene, where the family settles down in slightly different ways: on one side, they sit slightly apart from each other and on the other side they each have a hand on the other, forming a single mass. They look out at the frozen reservoir together as the sun sets. A car’s brake lights travel across the distant hill. Birds, crows, and a passing car are the last sounds we hear as the screen goes dark.

As the performance swung back and forth between the familiar and the unfamiliar, I resigned myself to ambiguity, as all good art encourages you to do. I experienced some familiarity when I thought I recognized words I knew and when I heard the sounds of geese, crows, and passing cars, sounds that I know like the back of my hand. I never realized how ingrained those sounds are in my memory. I also watched the Spiro family celebrate things they were familiar with, things I have never seen or heard and know nothing about. I felt like an outsider being invited in.

“Too (un)Familiar?” Installation View, 2021. Photo by Will Howcroft

Between You and Me

by Jane Lincoln

June – July 2021

A “Space Between” is the perfect metaphor for the moment. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended our habitual lives, and we are slowly moving into a post-pandemic world. Our foundation has been shaken by world and national events. We wait to see if heightened efforts to combat racism will yield a more just society and we hold our breath to see if our democracy will survive. Trust in one another is in short supply as society grows increasingly polarized. Yet, I can’t help but hope that this moment, shrouded in fear and confusion, will be transformative.  

At one of my art exhibits earlier this year, I had a chance encounter with Reverend Nina Barlow Schmid, Minister of the First Congregational Church of South Windsor CT. This led to an exchange about the concept of a “space between” and to the concern that covenants such as the one between Abraham and God in the Christian faith had lost their relevance. Reverend Schmid concluded one of her essays with this statement “Between you and me,” as God infers in the Bible, Genesis 17; “it’s the only way to go.” 

I borrowed that reference for one of my Color Zones in this show. Between You and Me invites you to consider the “space between us” – a centuries-old concept that calls us to surrender and embrace uncertainty. The theme “Space Between” prompted me to work panels that are connected but not touching. I want the viewer to consider the contrast of surface and space, paint and light, opaque and transparent.

Between You and Me, acrylic on paper/board, 12 ½ x 8 inches, 2021

My challenge in choosing colors for Between You and Me was to select ones that conveyed the hopes and fears that have dominated my emotions over the past year. But the painting is also an invitation to consider the current uncertainties of the many personal, global, political, and religious “spaces between.” Black and white portray polarization with the balanced neutral gray above them. The silver iridescent stripe across the gray and the rose glow show my optimism for the future. 

My Color Zones series also speaks to the show’s theme as they inherently intend to seek out color relationships that will influence emotions and create distinctive optical effects.  Colors interact with neighboring colors, edges create optical illusions, and interference pigments cause colors to shift as viewers walk by. 

Gregarious Green, acrylic on paper/board, 36 x 23 inches, 2021

Gregarious Green is a diptych featuring horizontal bands of green – one turquoise rises at the top while the three darker greens weight below. A thin stripe of orange crosses the top while the bottom panel has a slightly wider stripe of pink. These two stripes appear identical in color and reference the glow of orange between the panels and surrounding the painting. 

Versatile Violet, acrylic on paper/board, 18 x 43 inches, 2021

Versatile Violet is a triptych of various violets ranging from bluish to reddish which are enlivened by yellow-green between the panels and surrounding the painting. The surface repeats this yellow-green in the left panel, while both the middle and right panels contain different, more subtle greens.

David Salle in How to See describes my goal for these Color Zones: “A color is seldom experienced independently; we always see one color against another, and those two against another, and those two against a third, and so on. There are dozens of other factors that influence our perception of color, such as value and saturation but what counts most is the intervals between colors, precisely chosen.”

My Color Zones are best seen in person as they expect to interact with viewers.  They may trigger a memory or may be a new experience, but all allow the viewer a moment to pause and observe the power of color. I trust we have learned from our collective pain over the past year and our isolation has shown us the quiet “space between.” If you have the opportunity to visit Kingston Gallery I encourage you to pause, step very close and experience each “space between”.

detail of Between You and Me, acrylic on paper/board, 12 ½ x 8 inches, 2021
detail of Gregarious Green, acrylic on paper/board, 36 x 23 inches, 2021
detail of Versatile Violet, acrylic on paper/board, 18 x 43 inches, 2021

AIDS and Covid-19:Art in the Time of Epidemics

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The first in a new online series dedicated to the artistic discourse during Covid-19. Three artists came together for a reflection on artistic activism and practice during the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and reflect on those experiences as the world enters the era of another pandemic. Gallery artist Susan Greer Emmerson, who was a young medical doctor during the height of the AIDS pandemic, was joined by guest panelist Antoinette LaFarge, Professor of Art at UC Irvine and an artist whose practice includes the multi-year project The AIDS Chronicles. Their conversation was moderated by Kingston Associate Artist Amy Kaczur, who reframed their experiences from the 80s and 90s to our present day. This talk was presented on Zoom on April 15, 2020.

Due to COVID-19: The gallery will be open by appointment only. Please contact the gallery at info@kingstongallery.com for an appointment. Stay tuned for ongoing updates on our schedule.

Kingston Gallery is on Artsy

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Kingston Gallery is excited to be partnering with Artsy, the online platform.  Now, our artists at Kington Gallery can connect with more viewers and more collectors upon uploading their works to the Artsy website.  And in a world of COVID-19, this has not come at a better time for our gallery!  All that the viewer needs to do is to click on https://www.artsy.net/kingston-gallery, log in and search with the words “Kingston Gallery” to see the fabulous works of our artists and what works are for sale.  Viewers who log-in can stay up to date with our gallery shows and our online Artsy shows too. Make sure you follow the gallery by clicking on the “FOLLOW” button to get alerted of new artworks as they are added. Also, check out the work included in our current exhibition by artist Erica Licea-Kane: Half Spaces.

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When browsing through the Kingston Gallery works, Artsy allows you to access specific information about each artwork.  Information about the size of the work, the materials, the year the work was made, and the signature details, among other things, are on the site.  Inquiries can be made immediately with clicking on either “BUY NOW” or “MAKE AN OFFER.”  The “BUY NOW” option allows a purchaser to buy the artwork immediately, while the “MAKE AN OFFER” allows the purchaser to negotiate the purchase price.  We promise to get back to you promptly with a response.

Artsy offers quite a lot of interesting information on the art world in general – viewers can see work from galleries around the world, the latest art news, articles ranging from art criticism to art book reviews and so much more. It’s amazing! Keep returning to the Kingston Gallery Artsy site to see more work as we are continually uploading more artists and their work.

Due to COVID-19: The gallery will be open by appointment only. Please contact the gallery at info@kingstongallery.com for an appointment. Stay tuned for ongoing updates on our schedule.

In the Project Space: Mira Cantor: Under Siege

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In the Kingston Project Space, ​Mira Cantor​’​s ​exhibition Under Siege ​presents new drawings developed out of her reconsideration of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. She says of the work, “After leaving a studio that I had for 25 years and downsizing, moving and going through work I barely remember, I produced a series of new drawings that address humanity in 2019! Under Siege.” The frenetic energy in the figures is quite engaging. She works from a small stuffed sewn doll that she rearranges in different positions to indicate emotions and relationships between two people. While the works are primarily pencil drawings, she also applies watercolor to small areas of the works.

The colors applied are sparsely done and they seem to indicate a connection between figures or highlight a space shared. When asked about what she is highlighting in the intersection of the figures and how the process of applying the watercolors charge or change the work, Cantor states, “The meaning is often ambiguous, but I use the watercolor to enhance ideas. The ambiguity is important to engage the viewer, for them to bring their own understanding to the images.”

This body of work resonates in these trying times and reflects humanity’s search for meaning. With the daily deluge of anxiety producing news and the pressing fears of climate change, Cantor asks through the Eden expulsion myth and these works questions about the trials and tribulations we face. Her work deals with the difficulties of the struggles, but ultimately she suggests through this body of work that we (in concert with the drawn characters of Adam and Eve), “somehow manage to move on, out of the canvas, into the ambiguous state of the unknown, given hope to dispel the grief.”

Erica Licea-Kane: Half Spaces is on view in the Kingston Main Gallery, Susan Alport: Close Relations is on view in the Center Gallery and Mira Cantor: Under Siege is on view in the Kingston Project Space March 4 through March 29, 2020. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 6, 5-8pm.

New Work by Erica Licea-Kane

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Kingston Gallery artist Erica Licea-Kane discusses her upcoming exhibition, Half Spaces:

The fact that these works are made with acrylic paint, but have the texture and appearance of textiles is so engaging. There is a heavy quality, like a warm blanket or quilt, in many of the pieces. What types of textiles have influenced you or are you drawn to?

I have always been attracted to fiber art that is mixed-media oriented. I never saw myself as a weaver or maker of utilitarian objects even though in both undergraduate and graduate school I was well trained in a variety of textile and dying techniques. Technique was always a means to an end or a way to get a certain effect or surface quality that I desired. I actually wove my painting surfaces up until about 1999. I would weave small panels of fabric that I would then sew together, attach to the wall, stretch into the shape I wanted, cut holes in the fabric and then stiffen it on the wall. That would then become my canvas or painting surface. This way of working allowed me to have interesting edges, something that has carried through to my current studio practice. I would also make handmade nets that became scaffolding for my grid based compositions. Today I continue to work with grids that I make with the extruded acrylic medium or with burned patterns on the initial surface.

I really do think of myself as being an abstract painter from a weavers point of view. I continue to use all of the elements that are attributed to textiles. Grids, layers, transparencies, repeat patterns, surface, color, edges (selvages), are all components that are found in both using the loom and in textile design in general. Even basket structures are about repeated actions that create a built three dimensional structure. I realized early on that I was an additive artist, and naturally build surfaces in many parts.

The heaviness of the surfaces comes from many layers of extruded medium that happen when a surface needs to be resolved. This way of working does not allow me to take parts away from the surface once the medium has dried, so I keep adding to the piece. The many layers gives the edges, especially shaped edges, a roundness that gives the work an “object” quality as they become low reliefs.

I have always been drawn to Amish quilts because of the boldness of the color and the minimal compositions. They become more complicated as you get up close and start to discover the layer of sewn patterning in the fabric. I intend for viewers to get up close to my work to discover the many layers and nuances in the surfaces. I am often asked about the time invested in my work and how they are made. Ultimately, I always think of my paintings as being about time and balance even though they reference aerial views.

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There is an interesting intersection between abstract art and fiber arts in your work. Textiles being an arena for women historically to express their creativity. Are there any specific painters or textile artists you are inspired or influenced by? Where would you situate your work in relation to them?

I have always been surrounded by fabric. As a child my mother was always sewing and I spent a lot time with her in fabric stores. I still love the smell of fabric stores. I spent a lot of time going through her button box, creating embroideries and looking at my Grandmothers linens, stored away in a special cedar chest. There were always Craft Horizon magazines lying about the house, so I was very aware of the craft mediums at a very young age. My parents were both professional artists, so I grew up with “makers” and I was surrounded by art materials. As a college student in a textile program, I spent a lot of time making samples while I learned various textile techniques that were wide ranging. When I got out of school the first works that I made involved using hand sewn gauze that eventually moved on to working on hand-dyed and painted surfaces with layers of machine sewing. Later on I went back to hand-sewing as the work became more developed. I really can’t think of a time in my life when fabric wasn’t a part of it.

The artists that I have looked at for a long time and that I always describe as my “happy place” are both Lee Bontecou and Alberto Burri. They both have a brilliance to the way that they mix media and both artists used a lot of fabric in their surfaces. More specifically, I respond to Burri’s minimal compositions and Bontecou’s sewn reliefs. Bontecou is still working today and unfortunately Burri passed away in 1995.

Erica Licea-Kane: Half Spaces is on view in the Kingston Main Gallery, Susan Alport: Close Relations is on view in the Center Gallery and Mira Cantor: Under Siege is on view in the Kingston Project Space March 4 through March 29, 2020. An opening reception will be held on Friday, March 6, 5-8pm.

A Discussion with Artists On-Kyeong Seong and Vaughn Sills

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Kingston Gallery artist On-Kyeong Seong talks about the making of her work for the exhibition, Embedment, and her unique process:

Your practice of pushing the painted canvases through a sewing machine is intriguing, as is the fact that many needles break during this process, raising issues of labor in the work. Can you further explain the connection between the physicality of making the work and the layered, tactile qualities you achieve? How does the practice influence the intent of the work?

I have to share my personal childhood story when people wonder about machine stitchery in my art work. When I was little, I still remember, my father wanted to be an artist and he practiced everyday, all day long. I was 5 or 6 years old at that time, and I loved to sit by him and play or draw while he painted. During that time he was a full-time painter, so my mother had to support our family to make a living. She quit her Kindergarten teaching job and instead did embroidery work at home with her special embroidery sewing machine. She made lots of beautiful embroidered bed covers. Whenever she was done with her work, she did additional embroidery work for the local factory. The sounds of the sewing machine while she worked were my lullaby at night. I believe those memories show up through the processes of the making of my work and in the abstract forms of organic layering with the inorganic geometric surfaces within my work.

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There is a tension between the geometric backgrounds and the organic, floral forms stitched and painted into the foregrounds of the work. It often feels as if the organic forms are reasserting themselves over the architectural components. How would you describe the interplay between the foreground and background elements? Are there specific examples of interactions between man-made and natural forms you are working from? 

Over the years environmental issues have been very big concerns for me. Ever since my father was ill and passed away from cancer, I have researched cancer cells desperately and learned that many diseases arise due to environmental changes and pollution. People think that we live with up-to-date technology. It makes me wonder why there are so many diseases still uncured. These ideas give me a lot of questions and I want to integrate them into human made structures vs. organic forms, representing the origins of nature, as well as the pollution of nature.

Queen Anne's Lace, Bedeque

Also showing at the Kingston Project Space is work by Kingston Gallery artist Vaughn Sills. Her exhibition is titled, Inside Outside. She discusses her process and insights below:

The vibrant colors in the photographs speak to both natural and artificial aspects of beauty. Is the constructed nature of beauty a consideration in your still life set-ups? Can you expand on how beauty is a part of your images and your creative process? 

In nearly all of my work, I am interested in how nature influences us and how we influence nature. In this work, Inside Outside, the influence is seen most obviously in how humans have cultivated flowers for their beauty: from wild flowers, humans have nurtured, propagated, and intentionally bred plants to create particular blossoms and accentuate certain colors to appeal to our aesthetic sense. I don’t think I would say that those colors are artificial – rich deep colors can be found in wild meadows on mountains and beside craggy rocks near the shore.

Flower gardens, which are after all, decorative gardens, have in many cultures traditionally been created and taken care of by women. For many women the garden was one of the few places where their creativity and artistry was given a place to exist. I honor that in these photographs. However, human activity has created climate change – so the land and sea (shown in the “backgrounds” to the flowers) are changing, and they sadly remind me also of how humans negatively effect the natural world.

Once I’ve chosen a bouquet of flowers, considering color and tonality and shapes, I select from my small library of sea- and landscapes in search of the one that will work best and set these up in my studio to work with the available natural light, which gives me reflections on the vase and shadows on the (photographed) sky. With these elements, I work to create a beautiful composition. I lean, consciously or not, on all that I’ve learned in my art education about what constitutes beauty (including ideas of beauty that have been questioned). While in some of my work, I have challenged what has been seen as beautiful in the dominant culture, in this work I am not doing that. I don’t think we need to be taught to admire a field of Queen Anne’s lace, a sunset, or a stormy sky over the sea. In these photographs I do seek to create beauty – a beauty that feels beyond social construction.

There is a quietness present in the work, as well as a sense of longing. Are there specific memories or stories you are thinking of when making the images? Can you share one or two?

I am working here within a tradition of still lifes, and by its very name, the term still life connotes mortality (the French term for still life is nature morte – in literal translation, “dead nature”) – just as all photography is about the past, or even death, as Roland Barthes wrote in Camera Lucida. Additionally, the sea and landscapes you see in these still lifes are from my series “True Poems Flee,” which is about grieving for my mother, about savoring who she was and our deep connection. Perhaps it is the influence of those landscapes that creates a sense of quiet longing. But when I’m setting up and photographing the still lifes, I don’t consciously think about my mother, about particular memories of my life as a child with her, or our more recent long walks beside fields of goldenrod or on the shore at low tide. Rather I am completely in the present, in the moment, with my chosen flowers, glass vase, and landscape photograph — seeing something come into being through my lens. When all the parts do come together – color, light, shapes, reflections, I am usually startled, excited, awash with a sense of the miracle of the scene. And I become consumed with figuring out how to create the photograph that will convey the fullness of my constructed still life. And while I realize the scene does include a mood and feelings, it isn’t about a memory or a particular story. Instead, these images describe a new experience for me, one that includes living with grief – through beauty.

On-Kyeong Seong: Embedment is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Vaughn Sills: Inside Outside is on view in the Kingston Project Space February 5 through March 1, 2020. An opening reception will be held on Friday, February 7, 5-8pm. There also will be a Cupcakes & Conversation with the Artists event on Saturday, February 22, 2020, 3-5pm, with artists’ talks at 3:30pm.