From the eARTh: a review

This week, my guest blogger is Judith Weber, a ceramic artist and President of the New Rochelle Council on the Arts.  In 1983, Weber co-founded  Media Loft,  the first Loft established for artists in Westchester County. At my request, Judith reviewed the eARTh exhibition on view at ArtsWestchester’s Peckham Gallery through November 23.  Sixty-eight ceramic artists weigh in on environmental concerns through installation works curated by Leigh Taylor Mickelson of the Clay Art Center. The Peckham Gallery is located at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains and is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 pm.

All art speaks in signs and symbols.  No one can explain how it happens that the artist can waken to life in us the existence that he has seen and lives through.  No artistic speech is the adequate expression of what it represents; its vital force comes from what is unspoken in it.  Albert Schweitzer, Reverence for Life.

In today’s world, concern about the survival of the planet is no longer speculative.  Every day we see signs of deterioration – the assault of warming waters and higher tides, the threat of winds and rain which, at one time, cooled a hot, muggy day- that now have the potential to threaten life as we know it.

eARTh, an exhibition curated by Leigh Taylor Mickelson, opened earlier this month at ArtsWestchester.  “Sixty eight ceramic artists explore nature, sustainability and the environment and how we as a community can affect positive change.”  The exhibition addresses those issues in eloquent ways.

Being a ceramic artist, my first walk through of the exhibit was focused on the myriad of techniques on view. Every piece an example of an original way of handling a material which responds so perfectly to individual touch and direction.  So inventive, creative, and accomplished.

On second viewing, I was looking for the message.  Each piece spoke volumes, sharing the artist’s view of the world through their own personal lens.

I stopped to examine Doris Montanga’s “What Remains” and was struck by the essential loneliness that was palpable in the work. Her emaciated  stony figures, isolated in cave-like boxes communicated clearly her statement:   “We have reached the tipping point – air and water quality degradation, depletion of drinking water and other natural resources, extinction of species, chemically induced disease, climate change, war, alienation, inequality, abuse of power.  Sit awhile and consider the possibility of life with what remains.”

Struck by the sobering thoughts the work aroused, I continued on and stood before Marlene Parillo’s Abundance Within – “a mixed media tapestry made of hand dyed canvas, embroidery and appliquéd work, ceramic fixtures and beads.”  Here the intention is to “illustrate that even in the stormiest of times, we still have the resources within us to thrive.” This piece makes you happy.  The work is rich with thick brown embroidery supporting flowers, birds, and bunnies!  It supports life and is about connection.

Dalia Berman suggests that her work Ripple “captures the movement and translucency of water in porcelain clay. Porcelain in its raw form is soft and malleable, but it turns hard and brittle when it’s fired.  Ripple reconciles stillness and movement, hardness and softness, fluidity and permanence.”  For me, it also speaks to the fragility of a beautiful landscape so easily broken with a misstep… whose broken pieces stand alone as a monument to what was.

On the second floor is the Celebratory Table…a banquet of beautiful objects ready for dining, gathered from a large selection of artists whose work is totally unique. This, to me, symbolized what the world, if it is to survive, must embrace…

There are many more spectacular works utilizing earth’s elements and all speaking to the world we live in.  There is humor, sadness, anger and hope.  The exhibit challenges your thoughts and confronts and delights simultaneously.  It is well worth the visit.

-Judith Weber

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