Hedges and Houses and Mothers and Children
Curated by Pennylane Shen
Aurora Abzug, Diedre Argyle, Cassie Arnold, Wesley Bell Miller, Jack Bishop, Twiggy Boyer, Mills Brown, Nate Burbeck, Candace Compton Pappas, Robin Crofut-Brittingham, Sarah Detweiler, Benjamin Duke, Amy J. Dyck, Ari Eshoo, Michelle Fleck, Zo Frampton, Cara Guri, Deborah Hamon, Kate Harding, Julie Himel, Mary Janacek, Melanie Johnson, Lindsey Kapoor, Tetana Kellner, Kelly Kirkham, Amber Koprin, Michele Landel, Katia Lifshin, Jessica Matier, Lynne McDaniel, Sara Minsky, Imogen Morris, Stephen Morrison, Sarah Nelson, Laura Rosengren, Jess Self, Lucy Sharf, Leslie Lewis Sigler, Jane-Anita Smith, Emily Somoskey, Camilla Taylor, Amanda Walker, Devon Walz, Xiao Wang, Shirley Wiebe.
“Becoming once more under the power of that vision which she had seen clearly once and must now grope for among hedges and houses and mothers and children--her picture. It was a question, she remembered, how to connect this mass on the right hand with that on the left.... But the danger was that by doing that the unity of the whole might be broken.”
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf 1927
What an honour it has been curating this fourth I Like Your Work exhibition. And what a tremendous challenge it was to select only 45 pieces from approximately 700 artists. The level of quality was truly remarkable and unlike any other juried exhibition I’ve participated in before.
The further challenge was then to discern a theme by which to understand the variety of works represented. Finding it difficult to bring together these beautiful individual pieces—each a world unto itself—I was reminded of a similar obstacle faced by the character Lily Briscoe from Virginia Woolf’s famous novel To the Lighthouse. Lily searches for a “unity of the whole” to finalize her painting and realize her vision.
And thus I had stumbled upon my own unifying source: Woolf’s classic novel itself, whose three distinct sections—“The Window,” “Time Passes,” and “The Lighthouse”—offered me a way to frame the exhibit selections as well as represent issues close to my heart.
To the Lighthouse follows members of the Ramsey family at three phases of their lives together: first: vacationing in the Hebrides Islands living a relatively idyllic, if still fraught, pre-World War I existence; second: in the city, during the war in a time of profound, violent change and irrevocable loss; third: in the wake of tragedy, returning to the family vacation home in order to set out to the lighthouse for the first and likely final time.
The exhibition “Hedges and Houses and Mothers and Children” is guided by Woolf’s novel’s three-part structure and by its devotion to the power of beauty in all its forms to wrest meaning from chaos, be that beauty simple or profound, quotidian or transcendent. The guiding spirit here is of course the lighthouse, a literal beacon but figure of every searcher’s desire. Its illumination is a perfection unattainable, but nevertheless we persist in our attempt to emerge from shadow into light.
"Well, we must wait for the future to show," said Mr. Bankes, coming in from the terrace.
"It's almost too dark to see," said Andrew, coming up from the beach.
"One can hardly tell which is the sea and which is the land," said Prue.
"Do we leave that light burning?" said Lily
You can view the virtual exhibition on Dazed and Confucius's website here.
part 1: the window
The works in this room speak to the first section of the novel, arriving at the vacation home, the fleetingness of leisure, the quaintness of quiet life.
Equally, they probe the quotidian searching for harmony through gathering with loved ones, family and friends—harmony is found in something as simple as Mrs Ramsey’s fruit bowl, which the novel describes in incredible detail. Similarly, the youngest son James beholds the distant lighthouse as an unmoveable beacon of adventure and hope, inaccessible and enchanting. The works here are windows onto worlds of these desires—some realized and some not.
part 2: TIME PASSES
The second book of To the Lighthouse stands in contrast to the vital and spirited human world of Part 1. Instead of light, there is darkness. Instead of the simple but profound moment, there is the passing of time with the decay that attends this longer temporal dimension. In the time and place that Woolf responds to, there is also the death and destruction wrought by war and the prevailing sense of the unknown, which she represents through the slow disintegration of the once magnificent Ramsey vacation home.
While the pieces in this room do not necessarily trace such literal violence, to me, they show a keen awareness of all-too-relevant current issues of isolation, social unrest, and economic anxiety—concerns expressed through the depiction of time’s paradoxical speeding slowness, and through a grappling for meaning in the dark.
Mary JanacekThe Thirtieth of May Two Thousand Twenty in Las Vegas
Watercolor, cardboard, glue, and paper
18 x 18 inches 2020
part 3 : The Lighthouse
This final exhibition room takes its cues from the concluding section of Woolf’s novel, which sees the Ramseys once more in the Hebrides house but a decade after the war. The children, now adults, at last journey to the lighthouse. Ultimately, the destination that gives Woolf her title is a symbol whose meaning is both elusive and excessive, unattainable even as it is reached.
Here there is an attempt to reconcile with the past; to make different sense of once-powerful symbols whose significance has shifted. In the closing moments of the novel, artist Lily Briscoe finally finishes the commissioned painting of the Ramsey family she had begun over a decade ago, before everything changed. Her conclusion, and also Woolf’s, is a powerful reminder to be persistent in the pursuit artistic truth—notably in the face of adversity and convention.
Sarah DetweilerThe Hidden Mother (Behind the Smile)”
Acrylic and embroidery thread on canvas
Kate HardingFinally and Ever Since Oil, acrylic, digital embroidery and gesso on linen on panel
40" x 36" 2019