In the galleries: Reimagining thresholds as frontiers
Review by Mark Jenkins
January 27, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EST
All the artworks in “In and Between” have a story to tell, but some are chattier than others. The contributors to the Athenaeum show, all based at least part time in the Washington region, make mixed-media sculptures that often incorporate found objects and usually involve strong contrasts, whether visual or thematic. Some pieces are wall mounted, a few are suspended in space, and one sprawls through the main gallery, drawing the eye to other works.
That last assemblage is Ira Tattelman’s “Moving Into Frame,” whose long track twists across the room and through a wooden frame before ending at a pile of rocks. Sets of insoles flank the track, partly representing what the artist’s statement calls “a path one can follow.”
Simpler, at least in ingredients, are Kirsty Little’s “Surging,” a parted sea of curved wires tipped with wax in aquatic colors, and Sarah Stefana Smith’s “Threshold of Dissent No. 1,” a woven hanging funnel that’s tightly knitted at the top but unraveled at the bottom. According to their makers’ statements, the first piece echoes “the trials and repetitions of daily life,” while the second “proposes a portal of dissent from dominant belief systems.”
Gloria Vasquez Chapa positions 12 realistic drawings of a baby’s face behind a segment of a chain-link fence, a screen to the wider world. Jacqui Crocetta stands an ivory cloak that embodies her White privilege within a rock garden planted with text about racial issues. One of several artists who employ found wood, Pierre Davis tops dried branches with three yellow umbrellas to symbolize change and growth. Among Zofie King’s offerings is “Final Thoughts,” which places a glowing amber brain inside a partly cloaked cage to represent someone whose thinking is confined by preconceptions.
Perhaps the most in-between of these artists is Lynda Andrews-Barry, whose Catholic grandmother feared she would end up in purgatory because her parents didn’t have her baptized. Her “The DeadZone” places a mechanical bird inside a cage atop a dried stump. Ravens, her statement explains, can escort a soul through purgatory to the afterlife. This playful response to Grandma’s fears features a mechanical bird that comes to life when activated by ambient noise. Its chirps are piercing, if perhaps not loud enough to wake the dead.
The work of those eight artists constitutes “In and Between,” but the building’s basement holds pieces by two more people associated with the show: curator Steve Wanna and producer Veronica Szalus. Szalus pits metal against wood by planting rusted paint cans with metal rods around which are wrapped dried vines. Wanna’s more ethereal work is a three-sided room made of hanging white fabric and outfitted with two speakers that emit watery electronic tones. Entering this translucent chamber is a purely sensory experience of in-betweenness.
In and Between Through Feb. 5 at the Athenaeum, 201 Prince St., Alexandria.