WEST HARTFORD – A new art exhibition at the Chase Family Gallery at the Mandell JCC in West Hartford explores what happens when two artists create in response to one another’s work.
Connecticut artist Jody Silver and New York artist Arlé Sklar-Weinstein each combines objects and techniques of the past with modern technology and inspiration to create pieces reflecting new multidimensional reality.
They first collaborated in a 2010 show at Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan. The result, “In Relation To…,” was a collection of pieces created in response to one another’s art.
Using saws, tools and everyday found objects, Silver gives new life to old treasures, creating magical new art forms to be appreciated anew. She has created prints and animated films, published children’s books, taught animation, and worked as an illustrator. She began working in three-dimensional artwork nearly a decade ago.
Sklar-Weinstein blends traditional quilt-making with the latest digital technology to create unique fiber photomontages integrating computer-assisted, heat-transferred imagery on multi-layered fabrics.
Sklar-Weinstein was inspired by a wall-piece of Silver’s, containing old linotype letters, to photograph a box of similar letters and incorporate the image in a new fabric work. In response, Silver made two more pieces for the duo’s show. She then used a fiber-photo montage of a huge kite from Sklar-Weinstein’s series, “China Looms,” as inspiration. Sklar-Weinstein gave Silver a miniature quilt with the same image, and Silver created a vignette of Sklar-Weinstein at a sewing machine. The two pieces are displayed side by side in the show.
Another call-and-response pair of works was inspired by Sklar-Weinstein’s series, “Rainbow Colonies.” “Arlé had made these long, woolen multicolor ropes that I thought were just gorgeous and we thought we would create a hanging garden,” says Silver. “I was able to really play and make a lot of whimsical animal-ly things that would feel comfortable in an environment like that. Part of it was really hard for me because I was working in relation to Arlé’s work, and part was easy because I could make anything I wanted to fit into a garden.”
In searching for works to bring to the Chase Family Gallery, gallery director Jill Ziplow happened upon the Silvermine show. In addition to the fact that both Silver and Sklar-Weinstein are Jewish artists, Ziplow says that she was intrigued by the unique concept behind their collaboration.
“Both work with old media – quilting and sculpture – in new and different expressive ways,” she says. “They each take similar items and have them reflected differently in their work, but you can also see them responding to one another.”
Most of the pieces are from the Silvermine exhibition, with additional works from each artist. Together, they create a multi-layered, multi-dimensional display with a lot of movement, Ziplow says, that draws in viewers of all ages.
“We’ve gotten a tremendous response from the JCC preschool kids,” she says. “They’re entranced as they pass the gallery because they see animals, and they want to be inside the space. They see things that the adults don’t catch: They were looking at one of Jody’s playful wooden sculptures, of a cat, and a boy said, ‘It’s a violin.’ Only then did we realize that the torso is in fact an old violin. Looking at the work from their perspective, you see it in a different light.”
Each artist finds something universal in her respective medium. “Humans have an unconscious and deep-seated connection to fiber; we’re always touching our clothing, our bedclothes,” says Sklar-Weinstein, who originally trained as a painter in the abstract-expressionist tradition. “There’s something about the tactile quality that runs so deep in our being. When we’re born, wee come out and we’re immediately swathed in a piece of fabric, and when we die we’re wrapped in fabric again. In-between, we don’t walk around nude so we have a very personal connection to fabric.”
Sklar-Weinstein uses the comforting medium of fiber to present both beautiful and challenging images. She works in PhotoShop, a technology she first started experimenting with when it first emerged in 1995. “When I was doing large paintings, I would stare at a work and, maybe a year later I would say, ‘Ah, that’s what was going on!’” she says. “With PhotoShop, I can change images and pieces of images as quickly as my brain can fire. I can have an immediate response and feeling to a composition, and when I resonate with something, I can play with all kinds of variations on the theme until one hits me right.”
Silver uses found objects in her work. “I just see possibilities in them,” she says. “It’s hard for me to look at something and not see how I might be able to transform it or add onto it. I love finding pieces of things and putting other things with them.”
For Silver, the transformation speaks of hope. “I love putting things together and finding a different meaning for them; it’s like a puzzle,” she says. “I’m endlessly seeing what else you can do with something. It’s rare when I don’t have hope for a piece. I’m making something from something else, and giving more meaning to that thing.”
For more information on “Parallel Play” at the Mandell JCC see p. 20, visit www.mandelljcc.org or call (860) 236-4571.