Words as Art

Juried exhibit focuses on letters and language

by Alison Rooney

Eliza Doolittle, who famously uttered “Words words, words, I am so sick of words” in My Fair Lady, might find herself disgruntled at the latest exhibit at the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Arts in Peekskill. Titled WORD: Word in Art / Art in Word, it is filled with art relating in some way to the organization of letters into formations we call words.

The juried show, which opened in February and has been extended to Dec. 17, includes works by 45 artists selected from 145 who submitted. The only stipulation, according to HVCCA’s JoAnn Brody, was that each work had to contain at least one letter, from any language. A few artists, known for their work using words graphically or conceptually, were invited to participate.

Wandering through HVCCA’s cavernous space (the exhibit fills the downstairs and some of the upstairs), I found artwork in which the connection to words was strong and clear, while others were more mysterious and a few outright puzzling.

Laura Kimpton, "Let the Positive Come Out" (2016) (Photo by Sarah Connors/HVCCA)
Laura Kimpton, ”Let the Positive Come Out” (2016) (Photo by Sarah Connors/HVCCA)

Entering the space, you are greeted by Robert Indiana’ iconic LOVE sculpture, and, to its right, Laura Kimpton’s Let the Positive Come Out, an installation of stainless steel umbrellas suspended from the ceiling with uplifting words sprinkled between. Nearby is sometime, a Bill Schuck sculpture in which the description of media used — grass, plaster, wood, rubber, plumbing — gives a hint that this is not an inert object. In fact, despite watering by the HVCCA staff at the artist’s request, it is brown and withered, something the artist considers part of the process, according to Brody.

The Artists in Word

Fafnir Adamites, Victoria Arakcheyeva, Elizabeth Arnold, Paul Arts, Robert Barthelmes, Carly Blais, Mati Bracha, Jo-Ann Brody, Stefan Bruggemann, Robert Brush, Collective Settlement (Felicia Ballos, Jean Brennan, Elizabeth Castagna), Kathryn Frund, Sally Gill, Nicolae Golici, Inguna Gremzde, Erica Hauser, Carla Rae Johnson, Lance Johnson, Carole Kundstadt, Joan Levinson.

Nestor Madalengoitia, Jean-Marie Martin, Barry Mason, Kristina & Marek Milde, Donna Mikkelsen, Bernard Mindich, Patricia Miranda, Oscar Murillo, Basha Ruth Nelson, Adam Niklewicz, Robert Olsson, Pamela Pearce, Emma Rivers, Lucas Rollins-Page, Gina Scalza, Bill Schuck, Mike Seri, Dusty Simi, Julie Sitler, Tom Smith, Thielking & Brunett, Justin B. Thomson & Bradly Dever Treadaway, Les Von Losberg, Yunizar.

Elizabeth Arnold’s R.I.P spells with strips of tape to punctuate the work and communicate the phrases “No More Music” and “He Was Gone.” Other pieces pose questions about themselves: Béatriz Colon’s Fashion Statement – Word Robe (shown on previous page) is a dress cut from Tyvek with further cut-outs on the form becoming a commentary on fashion.

Bill Schuck, "sometime" (2016) (Photo by A. Rooney)
Bill Schuck, ”sometime” (2016) (Photo by A. Rooney)

Emma Rivers used text as a backdrop in her series of wooden diorama boxes depicting emotional scenes from her youth. There are conceptual works, like Adam Nikiewicz’ Tabula Rasa, a display of perhaps a hundred books, all the same size, and all open to a blank page. Kristyna and Marek Milde’s installation, Home in a Home, upon closer inspection, will surprise you when its wallpaper is revealed to show highly designed text. A questionnaire, to be filled in by those seated on a couch in the installation, asks visitors to describe what a home means to them, and completes the work.

A few pieces, among them Patricia Miranda’s Florilegium, are made from books. Miranda used found pages, which she dyed with cochineal and mounted on a bamboo skewer, their vivid color meant to be digested in some way. Other works have a sly humor, such as Willie Wayne Smith’s droll Surrogates that combines sweet line drawings and a childlike color palette with pithy wordplay. The way words will be digested in the future is seen in Nicolae Golici’s Nature Motherboard, in which one is encased in lumber.

Nicolae Golici, "Nature Motherboard I" (2011) (Photo by A. Rooney)
Nicolae Golici, ”Nature Motherboard I” (2011) (Photo by A. Rooney)

HVCCA will host a number of events in the next few months related to the exhibit (see below). To learn more, visit hvcca.org or call 914-788-0100. For the first time, it also is conducting an online silent auction at biddingforgood.com of much of the artwork on display, with 40 percent of proceeds returning to the non-profit museum.

What’s at WORD

  • On Sept. 10, at 2 p.m., moderator Susan Hodara will lead a discussion, “The Art of Curating for Public Projects and Commercial Venues,” followed by a Q&A. At 4 p.m., Patricia Miranda, who has a work in WORD, will lead a discussion on “Optimizing One’s Exposure in Group Exhibitions.”  Finally, from 5:30 to 9 p.m., a cocktail party will feature music, dancing, live music by DJ Noodle Noo (Andrew Rainey) and performances by WORD artists Victoria Aracheyeva and Lucas Rollins-Page.
  • On Sept. 20, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., JoAnn Brody and stage director and poet Mara Mills will lead a workshop called “Where Words and Memory Meet.” A tour of the exhibit is included.
  • On Sept. 25, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Cindy Beer-Fouhy, an instructor at Sarah Lawrence College, will lead “Playing with Words (and Art),” in which participants will spend time looking the exhibit and devote a few hours to writing and presenting poetry they create in response.
  • On Oct. 16 at 3 p.m. there will bring a panel discussion with WORD artists.
  • Finally, on Dec. 11, WORD closes with Writing the Walls II readings in which visitors can write on designated spaces on the walls next to the artwork that inspires them.

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