About Kingston Gallery

Kingston Gallery features contemporary art by New England artists specializing in a diverse range of media including painting, photography, sculpture, and installation. The 30+ Kingston artists exhibit in our three on-site gallery spaces; the Main Gallery, Center Gallery, and Kingston Project Space. Kingston is an artist-run gallery space incorporated in 1982 and supporting a schedule of 22 shows per calendar year plus several special events and group shows. Kingston Gallery takes its name from its original location on Kingston Street near Boston's Chinatown. In the mid-1990s, the gallery was one of the very first to relocate to Thayer Street, anchoring what has since developed into the vibrant SoWa Arts District of Boston's historic South End.

Walker and Emmerson On View

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In the Center Gallery, Kingston Gallery associate member Anne Sargent Walker is showing mixed media paintings in an exhibition titled Can We Bear It, which asks us to consider our impact on the environment. In a discussion about her work I asked her the few questions:

The layers are peeking through in most, but in some, as in Here So Briefly, entire cityscapes appear in the distance. What do you imagine is behind the lush greenery and nature that is slowly dripping away? What do you imagine will remain?

My paintings are about the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our natural world. The abraded surfaces, or places where other imagery peeks thru the foliage as in Here so Briefly simply imply that all is not as simple as it looks- that we have taken a toll on this earth and that habitat is being destroyed, the planet is heating up, species are dying out. The collaged images are just man made spaces, altered, that have impacted nature around them. I don’t want to hit people over the head with depressing images or didactic ones- I just want people to see beyond the main imagery in the painting, and perhaps think about our relationship to these places and other species.

GreenPasturesLG

What are the species you are working with in this series? Are you working from photographs? Can you describe your process while working in the studio as you are painting these works?

I have almost exclusively used birds as my metaphor for all of nature. I love them, they are small enough to paint actual size, and they are powerful symbols of loss in our world. There are 3 billion less of them in the skies than there were 30 years ago! Many bird species are on the brink of extinction. However, I do paint other animals: deer and fox mostly. One of the paintings for this show I did recently when I heard that a White tailed Buck had crashed through the plate glass window of a beauty salon in Long Island, scattering patrons, and then exited through the broken window. It was amusing in ways, but then I thought our world has become so small or overpopulated that the intersection between wild animal and human activity has become

My method is usually subtractive, in that I paint in layers but never cover everything up. As I paint over layers I decide what to let peak through or to remain in entirety. Many times the bottom layers are acrylic paint that I slather or pour on with no rhyme or reason except to get the surface covered. Subsequent layers may be either acrylic or oil, but the final detailed images, namely the birds, are in oil. In the hand series I use pencil.

In a conversation with artist and Kingston gallery member Susan Emmerson about her show, Tears Along the Edge in the Project Space, I ask her about the process and materials used in her unique approach to art making:

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There is a visceral reaction to the Hundreds Still Missing form, in its charred and melted form, that is quite different from the Tears Along the Edge work with its fragile form with hints of color. Have they been installed in the same space before? Is there perhaps a conversation happening between the two and what does it mean for the viewer to be in-between them?

I will be interested to see the conversation that develops between the pieces, as they have never been shown together before.  In both I allude to the imagery of a devastated landscape and the profound feelings of loss of home and community triggered by such scenes of destruction.  I explore the concept of solastalgia; a deep longing for a home or way of life that is forever altered by environmental change, and a similar though not perfectly translatable term in Welsh, “hiraeth,” which describes a profound homesickness for a home to which to which one cannot return or that may never exist again.  My goal is not to preach to viewers about the science of climate change nor present a didactic map of the Florida coast but inspire them to perhaps contemplate the human emotional toll that the irreversibly changing natural environment will take on all of us.

I usually include this quote with my artist statements as it defines the motivation behind my work:

All art is here to prove, and to help one bear, the fact that all safety is an illusion

                                       – James Baldwin

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What is your process in the studio working with the Tyvek? What types of tools do you use and processes do you go through to get the fragility in some of the work?

Tears Along the Edge is composed of about 40 separate units made of painted and molded Tyvek.  I painted sheets of Tyvek measuring 2-3 feet square with various acrylic colors the heated it so it curls in on itself, forming capsules with a white exterior and a painted interior surface.  I then take these and make openings in them with a wood-burning tool, exposing the painted interior and making them seem skeletal; fragile and exposed. (See photos)  I fix them to the wall with entomology needles, long thin pins usually used to impale dead insect specimens.

For Hundreds Still Missing I took black Tyvek and repeatedly melted and manipulated it to form the collapsed piles, then glued smaller pieces together to create the form of the final piece.  I coated it with gloss varnish to better define the details and augment the melted appearance.

Nat Martin: Studio Views is on view in the Kingston Main Gallery, Anne Sargent Walker: Can We Bear It is showing in the Center Gallery and Susan Emmerson: Tears Along the Edge is on view in the Kingston Project Space through February 2, 2020. An opening reception for all is Friday, January 3, 5-8pm. Special event: Open Mic Poetry Night with Lewis M., Friday, January 10, 2020, 7:00-9:00 pm

Musings by Artist Nat Martin

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When discussing the upcoming exhibition, Studio Views, with Kingston Gallery member artist Nat Martin, I raised several questions about his process and work. Below are fragments of his responses to everything from the overall theme of the work to why he makes the work he does:

Theme?

The overall theme is one of worry and anxiety as it relates to climate change.  Late at night in 2018 and 2019 I had been listening to podcasts about climate change.  It was often literally the last thing I was doing before going to sleep and I think of these photos as being like scenes from a nervous dream.

I was creating views from imagined satellites or probes that could be looking for a safe home on alien worlds.  Some suggest a violent, hostile future earth.  For me, they all suggest a moment of exploration or discovery: the discovery of more and more unaccommodating and strange places.

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Why GIFS?

At one point I was going to include looping videos in the show, but I ended up switching directions, but they were so much fun to make I kept making them.  I had a number of outtake photographs that I ended up liking as animations rather than photographs.

I started thinking of them as video feeds from far-away places and planets.  I placed them in television screens because of the photograph Transmission, which suggests a house illuminated by a glowing TV screen.  I was imagining a distant event that someone might be watching.

Process?

Almost everything was shot in my studio.  They are photos of small, constructed spaces.  I tried to avoid the use of any model making materials and instead used found materials and copious amounts of glue, sand, paint, etc.. Then I would take pictures with exposures of 30-60 seconds in very low light.  Many were created on Plexiglass so I could then light them from below, suggesting something volcanic.  I would then edit in Photoshop.

 

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Example?

The images above shows the set up for Sea Tubes and the final image.

It is a Plexiglass sheet raised up on boards.  Coating the top is a crackled mixture of house paint, glue and sand.  A lamp is shining from above.  The tubes were created by putting a blob of hot glue on a rock that I quickly dropped into ice water.  The glue stretched until the water hardened it, then I glued them to the Plexiglass.

This was one of many that I intended to look underwater.  I had read an article about the possibility of a probe breaking through the ice on Jupiter’s moon Europa and exploring an alien sea- it conjured up all sorts of visions. To see more process images and GIFs go to https://natmartin.squarespace.com/#/studio-views-debris-field/.

Nat Martin: Studio Views is on view in the Kingston Main Gallery, Anne Sargent Walker: Can We Bear It is showing in the Center Gallery and Susan Emmerson: Tears Along the Edge is on view in the Kingston Project Space through February 2, 2020. An opening reception for all is Friday, January 3, 5-8pm.

 

 

 

Speaking with the Artists: Stacey Cushner and Linda Leslie Brown

Cushner _ Intangible Aspects of the Forest color pencil on paper 24 x 26 inches 2015

 

A discussion with gallery artist Stacey Cushner about her exhibition, Intangible Aspects of the Forest:

Your work has a sense of wonder to it and you speak of feeling that wonder as a child taking a walk. Can you describe the place or walk where you first decided to make artworks about trees and the woods?

The idea of drawing trees, which I find magnificent in form and in values, came to me when I was walking through the Back Bay Fens which is right up against the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where I used to teach drawing.  Frederick Law Olmsted planned out this park as part of the City’s Emerald Necklace green space.  The design of this space and the varied old trees are still extraordinary. I would invite my students to spend time there and draw. I took many photos with my phone and started drawing in graphite.

Inspiration from old single color drawings by Millet and others brought the idea of drawing trees with using just blues – these older drawings were not in blues but in reds.  I was interested in using the different values in blues to create a realistic effect.  In art, you have to try different things to see what can come of your creations. Watercolors in blue and blue pencil didn’t work for me, but working with all different colors in blue pencil did.  I also discovered The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate by Peter Wohlleben and other current books to try to understand my attachment to woodlands and forests.  I realize now that it comes from a childhood place, this tiny woodland I used to frequent, where I observed plants, trees and changes in nature up-close.  It drove my imagination in a creative sense.

Cushner _ Infinite Immensity color pencil on paper 22 x 33 inches (2015)

The color blue is so unusual but captivating. What was the impulse to create these cool, blue environments?

The blues I use range from quite dark ultramarine blues to green phthalo blues that are vibrant.  Drawing this way comes from the value scale that is commonly used in art. Blues are calming and give others, I hope, a sense of tranquility also. When combined with greens, it also signifies growth and renewal.  Blue is a symbol of strength, trust and wisdom.

Blues are a favorite of mine. I pay attention to set designs and films to see how magical blue trees can be.  When the protagonists go through the wardrobe in the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” the blue trees against a white, winter background really stops you in your tracks.  It’s awe and wonderment at its best. I had the same response with the movie “Tomorrowland” where stunning blue trees are depicted at the end of the movie – it’s a hopeful ending.

Also showing in the Project Space, gallery artist Linda Leslie Brown shares her thoughts on her exhibition Survival Mode:

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The sculptures you create have a sense of agency, where they become newly formed creatures. Can you describe your process in making one and where you find your materials?

My sculptures are composed of parts. Some are made from ceramic clay slab and coil forms; some are cast in plaster, and many are found objects made of plastic, ceramic wood, metal, rubber, foam, fiber, or shell, or fungus. My husband and our dog help me find things on their long rambles through the city, but some parts such as the vinyl tubes are sourced in hardware stores or on Ebay. The assemblage process is at least partly aleatory, improvisational, a bit like cooking. There is a lot of tasting as I go. I have a studio arsenal of glues, silicones, paperclay, epoxies, screws and wires. Sometimes it’s necessary to break a piece apart to expose a certain quality in the materials, and then I’ll begin again. Usually, I’m looking for an element of energy or balance that unites all the different parts with a sense of purposefulness, or of belonging together in their accumulation.

The imaginative hybrids you create have a speculative nature. What are your influences?

Your choice of the word “speculative” seems apt. In one sense, my sculptures’ hybridity gives them a decidedly queer quality: of being in a trans state, of having fluid identity, of being un-formed. That fits in well with a lot of current theories I suppose. I’ve always admired work by artists whose pieces seemed capable of changing into something else the next time you saw them.

I can definitely agree that they embody a quality of being “putative, hypothetical, conjectural, suppositional and based on guesswork.” Another definition of “speculative” works pretty well here too: “uncertain, chancy, and involving a high risk of loss.” Those are some things that keep me interested in a work of art. I see those qualities in the works of Hesse, Bourgeois, Mendieta, Benglis, Voulkos and Ewen Henderson among many others.

Stacey Cushner: Intangible Aspects of the Forest is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Linda Leslie Brown: Survival Mode is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 29, 2019. An opening reception for both is Friday, December 6, 5-8pm.

Solitary by Joan Baldwin

Baldwin_OK, no problems

When viewing the work in the Project Space at Kingston Gallery by member artist Joan Baldwin, one is very conscious of being watched. This installation of paintings moves between the feeling of a guard looking into a cell to a sense of looking out windows towards strange and imaginative vistas. The impulse for making the work is just that, as Baldwin intended it is “to have a person in a cell, confined and imagining scenarios out the windows.” The painting, Interior Door, sets the scene and evokes a prison door with a guard peering in. The effect of the work being installed in the white walled space is to create an imaginary and dreamy space. Baldwin states that, “a few people commented that the eyes looking in looked like my eyes, so maybe I was monitoring myself and checking in on my imaginative visual thoughts.”

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The Project Space at Kingston Gallery is a place for member artists to explore new ideas and to present new and in-progress bodies of work. Baldwin is know for her fantastical landscapes, using characters derived from ancient Roman statuary and gargoyles in her last show, but for this exhibition she wanted to take the opportunity to experiment with something new. Using the entire space for an installation was another idea Baldwin had in mind when creating this work. The Project Space was a good fit for this and the resulting work created “a place where the imagination can rule, and a metaphor for someone going a little crazy,” says Baldwin.

Ann Wessmann: Gathering: An Homage is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Joan Baldwin: Solitary is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 1, 2019.

An Interview with Artist Ann Wessmann

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How did you come to making work about trees? What was the initial impulse?

To start at the beginning, I grew up in Scituate, a small sea coast town, in a family who valued the handmade object.  Our home was on a corner, with a hedge and 17 trees, which provided a cozy existence. In the summer we went to the beach most days, and there was one particular beach near us that had the most beautiful stones, which we collected. That was probably the beginning of my love of nature and of the observation/collection habit.

 My parents were curious people and when they wondered about how weaving worked, one thing led to another, and my father wound up designing and building a loom for my mother.

When I went off to college, the weaving studio, housed in a beautiful Victorian carriage house, caught my eye and imagination.  I fell in love with weaving and fiber art.  After graduate school I began a 40 year career, teaching in the fibers area of the 3-Fine Arts Department at MassArt. In October of 1981, I travelled with 5 faculty and 70 students to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, where for 5 days we made works mainly outdoors in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Deer Isle, Maine. This annual MassArt trip to Haystack, which became in a way a pilgrimage, had a profound effect on me.   It initiated my love for making work out of natural materials in the environment.

While my studio practice does not always include natural materials, it is always material based, and materials are chosen for their expressive potential with an overarching theme of conveying the fragility and strength of humanity and the natural world.

Over the years I have continued to collect natural materials and have spent much time collecting, cleaning, sorting, combining and developing large and small pieces.  About ten years ago in the fall, while in Scituate, at my home which was passed down to me, I came upon some horse chestnut twigs with bright orange tips.  They had fallen from one of two horse chestnut trees in the yard and I found them incredibly beautiful and very calligraphic.  From my early childhood, we always collected the beautiful horse chestnuts in the fall, but somehow the twigs were not something that I ever really paid attention to, despite the fact that I have been caring for the yard for a long time. I immediately started collecting them, and have continued to collect them year after year.  It took me about five years to be ready to make a piece. After much sampling, I decided to make a piece called Poem for my old Horse Chestnut Trees as a way to honor the trees that have stood in the yard for so long, and in fact may have been already old when we moved to Scituate in 1953. One of the horse chestnut trees has since died, as have many of the 17 original trees on the property, and also my parents and brother have passed away. In many ways the work is about parallel life cycles and honors not only trees, but my family as well.  A year ago in the fall, when I was doing my annual gathering of twigs, I started to become interested in the chestnut hulls or husks, and then the leaves caught my attention.  I started to collect them as well (this may be an obsession), and just as I said to myself “at least I am not collecting the leaf stems”, all of a sudden they became fascinating as well. It was around this time that I decided to make a body of work focusing on the gathering process, honoring the horse chestnut trees, and in some way all trees, for their value in our personal lives as well as their immeasurable value to the planet.

The pieces in the Center Gallery, Homage to the Linden Tree #1 and Homage to the Linden Tree #2 came about in a similar way.  The Linden tree is growing in a school yard directly behind my urban backyard in Dorchester.  Around 6 years ago while working in my garden I came upon a small leaf that had deteriorated, and was partially skeletonized.  I thought it was quite beautiful and I thought it would be interesting to find more of these leaves and to skeletonize them. I investigated in the school yard and found the tree and discovered that the leaf was really a bract. In the spring the flowers develop on a stem on the bract and later a nut is produced on that stem. I had been looking at this tree out my kitchen window and behind a pine tree for about 40 years. It is so interesting to me, what we notice and what we don’t. Eventually I skeletonized several hundred of these bracts and made an ethereal hanging installation for a show Earth to Heaven at Spoke Gallery.

Again, these linden tree pieces are meant to honor a tree that has been in my life and provided beauty in an urban environment for a long time, but it has been only in the last six years that I have gotten to know and appreciate it on a deeper level.  In an unfortunate turn  of events, this past July as I worked on this piece, I learned that the linden tree along with my beloved pine tree is slated to be cut down in order to expand the school parking lot. I am hoping that this doesn’t happen.

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There is a meditative quality to the work. Is that part of your process when making it?

I come from a textile background and have a textile sensibility in most of the work that I do.  Many textile processes have a meditative component to them.  Weaving in particular, generally builds up row by row in a rhythmic, repetitive and often meditative way.  In other processes such as knitting, crochet and embroidery surfaces are built up stitch by stitch, and so gathering twigs, hulls, or bracts one by one is similar.  I find the process of picking up an object, observing its particular qualities and beauty and then picking another and another and another to be very satisfying and meditative. I am quite focused during this process, although at some points the process evolves into the absurd when I realize just how much material I need to gather in order to create the piece that I have envisioned.

Once the materials have been gathered, a system is developed for the production of each piece.  For example, in Gathering #1, most of the horse chestnut hulls or husks were cleaned, scrubbed with a tooth brush , rinsed, dried and then two holes were drilled in each hull, and the hulls were then threaded onto 12 foot strands of waxed linen thread. Eventually 48 strands were built over a long period of time.  The process itself is a kind of meditation.

18.Wessmann_Gathering#1 Installation photo

How do you want the viewer to experience the work? What do you want them to walk away with after the encounter?

This exhibition is an homage to trees.  The main gallery pieces are poems to horse chestnut trees that have been in my life for 67 years.  The two center gallery pieces are an homage to a linden tree that I have seen out my kitchen window for 40 years.  The materials used are ordinary, often overlooked, raked up and thrown away, but to me they are beautiful and they perform an important function in the life and propagation of trees.  I have tried to create an atmosphere of ephemeral beauty for the viewer, a place where, especially in the center gallery viewers can participate in the piece, and hopefully feel enveloped in a peaceful place. There is so much beauty in the natural world, and while it is strong, it is also fragile.

Ann Wessmann: Gathering: An Homage is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Joan Baldwin: Solitary is on view in the Kingston Project Space through December 1, 2019.

Some thoughts on AR in Luanne E Witkowski’s Work

 

How did the printmaking works lead to a project in augmented reality?

Decades ago I’d been trained in printmaking, and had been teaching alternative and non-toxic printmaking workshops, yet my studio practice had shifted to painting.  I’d moved from a traditional and minimalist approach to a mix of traditional and non-traditional materials, and applications that included natural materials, environmental installation, light and video projection culminating in a constructed dimentionality that crossed processes and layering. My work has always been informed by a printmaker’s sensibilities and approaches, but it was not printmaking.  Meanwhile, I was having some very strong printmaking cravings.  Having an opportunity to explore collagraph intaglio printmaking again recently opened up a cross-over from constructed pieces to constructed plates that satisfied a buried itch and a very satisfying return to my roots.  I began a series of collagraph intaglio monoprints that would lead to the work in Same Not Same, my current show in Kingston’s Project Space.

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My curiosity about AR arose last spring after viewing an exhibition of augmented letterpress prints from the “Disobedient Design” course at MassArt. I was really surprised by what it was and how it was applied to the prints on display.  After conversations with Martha Rettig and Sofie Hodara, the faculty and creators of CabinAR (the program and app used to create the AR) and George Fifield of Boston CyberArts about other AR apps, Sofie and Martha invited me to a workshop to learn more about it.

I decided to try it with one of my collagraph intaglio monoprints and was quite entertained by the possibilities and results.

LEWitkowski_No.4_30x22_Archival Monoprint

What do you think are the intersections between the printmaking process you use and the technology for AR?

Layering!  I really enjoy the layering involved in constructing the plates, and then the layerings possible in the actual printing process. In the AR I created for the Same Not Same No. 11 print, I used layers of the actual materials used in creating the plate to ‘float’ them ghost-like off of the image they were used to create. It was an interesting concept and the Project Space’s premise of allowing for experimentation and investigation within our art and practice gave a big nod to exhibiting it there alongside what I consider a successful series of prints in their own right.  The surprise for me was learning that the CabinAR app was strong enough to recognize not just the “marker” print, but the plate! So it works on all five of the prints created using that particular plate (#s 6, 7,  8, 9, 11) regardless of color, inking and additions to the prints themselves.

What may be future projects where you use this technology?

I’m still not sure how I feel about AR as applied to works of art. I want people to look at the pieces up close and personal.  I’m not sure I care for looking through a ‘device’ (phone/tablet)  I can see it as an educational or environmental or activist tool though and may explore those options as I go forward.

Margaret Hart: Situated Becomings is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Luanne E Witkowski: Same Not Same is on view in the Kingston Project Space through October 27, 2019.

Collage and Science Fiction in the Work of Margaret Hart

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This is a short interview with Kingston Gallery member Margaret Hart about her current exhibition:

Can you describe how you came to make the work in the Situated Becomings series?

This series explores how collage and science fiction are brought together through creative practice and presents a series of artworks which are created out of a process involving both. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a favorite novel of mine in my youth and the book began a life–long fascination with science fiction. I loved the mix of science and ethical issues Shelley raised, but also the social questions about “what it means to be human?” and “what makes us human?” Just as adolescence makes one wonder, “what on earth is going on with me?”, adulthood reframes these issues to question our humanity in the face of complex social and ethical problems. Ever since my first introduction to Shelley’s medical, marvelous monster, I have continued to turn to science fiction for its mix of science, often presented as probable, with my own sense of my humanity.

My recent artwork explores the potential of collage, the stitching together, if you will, of components to create a new whole. Mary Shelley claims her novel is about how the “parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and imbued with a vital warmth.” This description could be used to describe both Shelley’s process and my collage practice as well. In my collage series, I create meaning by bringing together feminist theories of gender, science fiction and concepts of posthumanism (a rejection of traditional Western humanism). At the same time, I bring imagination to the process of creation, striving not for a new form of human being, but for greater insight into the human condition.

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Can you further explain the connection in your work between science fiction, feminism and issues of posthumanism?

Feminist science fiction writers asked questions such as; How would a society based on equality look? How would it be run and who would make the decisions? What science and technology differences would there be? Feminist writers used the imaginative aspects of the science fiction genre to critique social stereotyping and challenge the position of woman as other to man. Ursula K. Le Guin suggests that science fiction allows for “thought–experiments” where power structures, sexual order and gender can be creatively inverted and altered in numerous imaginative ways.

Creating these thought experiments has become part of my process as well. The relationship between visual collage and experimental science fiction in my practice is entangled and intertwined, allowing for imaginative posthumanist gender possibilities. These cyborgs, hybrids, or even perhaps monsters, are models for modes of becoming where human and non–human subjects join in affirmative potentia, where one seeks new figurations and creative theoretical alternatives for existing ideas. Conviction and optimism combine with transformation in the Situated Becomings series making these works material examples of posthumanism and the transformative power of becoming.

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What do you want the viewer to walk away thinking about after viewing these works?

Upon viewing the collage Situated Becomings #23, seen directly above, one could see a monster and denounce the aesthetic value of the work or one could be seduced by the aesthetics and embrace imaginative possibilities for new understanding of what it means to be human. There are connections between the combined fragments which create the whole, a being more–than or other–than what it was. Science fiction and art are entangled together to picture affirmative potentia and the posthuman. Beginning with Mary Shelley and her statement; “parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and imbued with a vital warmth,” this series brings full circle the layers and influences joined together in the creation of this body of work. The vital warmth in my Situated Becomings series is an affirmative stance on the posthuman and the possibilities that provides for expanding our understanding of gender.

Margaret Hart: Situated Becomings is on view in the Kingston Main and Center Galleries and Luanne E Witkowski: Same Not Same is on view in the Kingston Project Space through October 27, 2019.