Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Language of Objects

I finally made it to the Sheldon Art Galleries to see The Language of Objects by Jane Birdsall-Lander and Jo Stealey today. Both artists explore history, form, language and the natural world and evoke a sense of spirituality and symbolism through their work. The show is described as using "language as a conceptual catalyst as well as a textural and/or a contextual component to speak to fundamental human issues of communication and existence" and both artists explore the role of nature and object in our everyday lives.

Jane Birdsall-Lander's work from her Bound Alphabet series utilizes scythe handles (or snaths), cello, violin and viola pegs, wooden canes, pitchforks, shoe factory racks and more, imbuing the found objects with a sense of history, importance and symbology. Birdsall-Lander transforms these reappropriated objects into new forms that both bespeak and transcend their past use, also incorporating waxed linen thread as a means of connecting past and present. She references the history of written language, alphabet, music, and form, stating that "our contemporary alphabet once took the form of pictures... that represented the basic categories of human existence... life, home, travel, sexuality, conflict, the human body..."

Jo Stealey has transformed the gallery space with the inclusion of 25 tree-like structures and over 600 rocks, all crafted from handmade paper of abaca and flax plant fibers. Jo Stealey states that, "It is my intention that viewers walk through the forest in order to immerse themselves in the environment and ponder the role of nature and cycles in our lives." The work evokes feelings of ebb/flow and the life/death cycle and fosters a sense of the ephemeral through the use of materials "viewed as ethereal yet common and ironically tough and long lasting."

Both artists' works are exquisitely constructed with an attentiveness to detail and materials that furthers their connections with history, symbology and spirituality. Jane Birdsall-Lander's works evoke artifacts, offering a sense of human history imbued in everyday objects, both past and present, and of the evolution of said objects and forms. And Jo Stealey's installation is a delight, especially when immersed in it, transforming the viewer's sense of time and place, life and death, interior and exterior, natural and fabricated... You can read more about both artists approaches, interests, explorations and ideas on the Innovations in Textiles blog:
Jane Birdsall-Lander
Jo Stealey

It is also worth noting that William Christenberry's Southern Artifacts show, which extends into both the Gallery of Photography and Bernoudy Gallery of Architecture, fosters a similar exploration into objects with its documentation of "the sculptural forms of vernacular structures and cultural artifacts of Hale County, Alabama." And American Framing by Jessika Miekeley in the Nancy Spirtas Kranzberg Gallery downstairs also examines how objects become imbued with a human presence through her images of coats on chairs that "emphasize the sculptural quality of their forms and their ability to mirror human emotions."

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