The late spring hall exhibit, Preserve / Subvert, was curated by MU intern Rachel Trout as the culminating project of her time at Sager Braudis. The show can be seen as an all-female complement to the main gallery exhibit, and features work by Marie Gardeski, Gin O’Keefe, Hannah Reeves, and Mia Weiner. Each of the artists was included with consideration of her suggestive use of contour line, color palette, and negative space. While visually cohesive on a formal basis, it is important to consider how each artist utilizes these formal elements to participate in conversation distinct to her research.
Hannah Reeves, Sager Braudis Gallery Director and featured artist, received her MFA from MU in 2008. Reeves explores nostalgia with “two minds” on the matter; she arrives at the work from a nostalgic position, but remains critical of the tendency to preserve throughout her process. She utilizes the history associated with the works’ materiality to guide the viewer to a conversation they are familiar with, but creates another dimension to the work with unexpected tension. We can recognize this intentional perspectival shift in her Tess of the d'Urbervilles series, wherein each beautifully rendered decorative painting is interrupted with a central figure that the artist appropriated from a Victorian death portrait.
Mia Weiner received her MFA from MICA in 2013. Weiner uses embroidery to have conversations regarding intimacy, memory, and the body. Like Reeves, Weiner’s work investigates memory and nostalgia with a critical counterpoint. While the subject matter in Weiner’s work is typically sentimental and figural, the portraits take on an unsettling but evocative presence. Weiner’s lace and embroidered works acknowledge the weight of the history these materials are related to. As Weiner distinguishes in her artist statement, the embroidered image establishes a specific degree of intention. Both Reeves and Weiner are distinctly highlighting how the use of – and history of – materials relates to the content of the work.
Tradition, in basketry, has a long affiliation with the gender roles of women. Gin O’Keefe’s academic training began in an institution where she learned classical basket making craft, and she then completed her MFA at MU in 2015. Her practice has evolved into one that undermines the process’ long-established feminine tradition with her brutalist ceramic sculpture. Her use of clay adjusts the context of her basket-like forms away from the gender politics of traditional basketry, allowing her forms to embody more nuance.
Marie Gardeski completed her MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Through traditional methods of drawing and painting, Gardeski achieves a visual language that transcends her subjects' initial sweetness. She utilizes her skills to create sentimental scenes in order to engage viewer, but eventually, the subject matter deviates from their commencing charm and introduces a space that Gardeski describes as an “unmistakable sadness.”
Usually working from ideas regarding memory or tradition, these artists all establish a counterpoint to their subject matter to create a place of tension. The role of the artist in each of these works is to interrupt these sweet scenes to challenge the language historically associated with women’s work.
This exhibit will be up in the hall gallery at Sager Braudis throughout May, and will be celebrated on First Friday, May 5, from 6 - 9 PM, with some of the artists attending.