“Upon experiencing the meticulously arranged walls of rice included in artist Bridget Conn’s Pantheon (Incantation), an installation in Gathering, gallery visitors Fereydoon and Soheila Family recalled a parable they heard often as children, about Fatima, daughter of Mohammed. Once, while Fatima was cleaning house, she found a single grain of rice under the kitchen table. She gratefully set it aside for inclusion in a later meal. This appreciation for the singular bit of sustenance, the reclamation of this seemingly insignificant grain, is in keeping with the intentions of the artists in Gathering. Beyond the message of not wasting resources, these artists find promise for extraordinary symbolism in what was once considered unimportant. Gatherers imbue new meaning into an object while honoring its previous lives and encouraging memories associated with the familiar. Some establish community through art making, dreaming, ritual, and storytelling.
A sense of curiosity and empathy is necessary to save what is left by the wayside. Collecting can lead to an awareness of just how much one consumes, inspiring creative uses for castoffs. Artists in this exhibition express connections through organizing and juxtaposing objects, fusing new meaning into compositions. They call on the links to history held by the used and released, whose auras extend far beyond material makeup. Transforming these artifacts into signifiers of an era, they collapse time within the picture frame through repetition and overlap. One can imagine these objects being used during actual events, such as silverware eaten within a segregated restaurant, come to life in Omar Thompson’s We Don’t Serve No Colored Here. A child’s alphabet blocks in Larry Walker’s Aftermath beg for wonder at who learned their ABC’s with them. The design of an object can mark a period of time as in Amandine Drouet’s collection of early 20th century dolls. Looking at their surroundings, picking through to make piles of treasures, these artists create new tools to reclaim history and communicate a means to bond with ancestors, connecting to a greater whole.
Gatherers may walk with eyes all open, imagination run wild with possibility, noticing the potential held within a material. Sometimes they travel through spaces heads down, observing what is underfoot, to confirm that no treasure is overlooked. They scavenge the attic and the underbelly, investigating scrap yards, opening doors to the remnants of others. Some hunt for artifacts on eBay. Others refuse any help in their search for materials. For artists who are collectors, their process of accumulation – directed by intuition – speaks beyond their raw materials to become a powerful weight in the meaning of their work.”
-Lisa Alembik, Dalton Gallery curator 2002-2013
Gathering was an exhibition featuring thirteen artists who used discarded materials and objects to create their work. The artists presented were Bridget Conn, Rebecca Des Marais, Thornton Dial, Amandine Drouet, Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Charlie Lucas, Lynn Marshall-Linnemeir, Michael Murrell, Omar Thompson, Daniel Troppy, Larry Walker, and Stan Woodard. All artists hailed from the southeast.
Gathering artists came from a variety of backgrounds. Some were self-taught, others were university professors. All were teachers of some sort, linked by their intuitive approaches to collecting materials. They explored their surroundings for resources — scavenging the attic, investigating scrap yards, opening their doors to the remnants of others — to come upon overlooked treasures that they rededicated to art. They shed light on the value of re-collection, often imbuing their newly embodied heirlooms with a sense of hope. Their processes of reclamation were evident in the works of art in the exhibition.
Under the care of the artist, those things once lost or overlooked, then salvaged and refocused, became part of a new tradition. The artists drew out latent powers and new possibilities from these re-appropriated objects, placing them in a fresh context. By embracing connections, Gathering artists welded links to their cultural history through their combinations of findings. They worked from strong personal foundations, often communicating their particular experience and heritage. The story of the artifacts, whether actual or imbued by the artist, was integral to the meaning of the new pieces. The particular symbolism of one discovery combined with the telltale legend of another lead to a work of art of greater significance than the sum of its parts.
Family photographs, inherited heirlooms and mementos of personal importance can have dramatic presence in one’s life without having monetary value. The process of cherishing and collecting is not limited to those who consider themselves artists. Through focus and struggle, one can tap into the imagination, finding extraordinary meaning within an object once overlooked. The search to discover materials engages one with their surroundings, increasing their sense of belonging to that place and culture. Gathering castoffs to be used in artwork can generate an awareness of just how much one consumes and instigate a push towards creative approaches to cleaning the environment. Through the work of these artists much can be learned about the importance of observation, the amazing power of intuition and an appreciation for the recycling of resources. Gathering artists created new tools for bonding, expressing the means to establish community through artmaking, dreaming, ritual and story telling.
Gathering was curated collaboratively by Dalton Gallery Director Lisa Alembik and Agnes Scott alumna Virginia Philip (’61).