The 77th Annual Exhibition of Juried Work at the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia
The juror this year was the experienced, much-lauded ceramicist and teacher, Syd Carpenter.
She invited artists and artisans in Philadelphia and within 50 miles of the city limits to submit work which deals with what they know given their physical environments; and changes brought both by the passage of time and by change of location.
Bust of Mary McLeod Bethune, date unkown, cast metal. Woodmere Museum.
One of two pieces in the collection of the Woodmere Museum which the juror chose to include in this exhibition.
This is a small piece and the juror, a ceramicist habituated to create with her mind-hand, held it and discerned that energy and that history which iconic works transmit from generation to generation.
Mary McLeod Bethune, 1875-1955. Born to parents who were themselves emancipated from slavery, fifteenth child whose siblings had themselves been born in slavery, Bethune moved in slow stages to the front of the civil right movement, fighting a long battle for the education of women among many other battles.
The juror asked for a representation of something artists and artisans know: know in their flesh and know about their physical environment, past or present.
A knowledge valuable enough for them to represent in labour-intensive creative work.
This is timely in a time when the political life of the nation is composed of mental – in both senses of the word – games played so that fact and fiction are synonymous and we begin to doubt what we know.
And a time when visual images are so insistent that we are unsure what is our experience and what was imposed on our eye-brain by image-creators.
An astonishing 780 artists and artisans submitted work. Syd Carpenter chose the work of 75 for display.
I thank the Woodmere for continuing the tradition of juried shows which allow individuals with no necessary institutional connection to submit the work which helps to sustain their lives – our lives.
Here is a sample of the work submitted.
Here is a vast reservoir of that which requires no battle.
In other words work which, to be and to succeed, did not and do not require human conflict and the diminishment of others:
creativity, skill, tenacity, love of place, remembrance, patience, risk, and the acceptance of the multiple experiences of people of diverse backgrounds.
And above all, good will and hope.
Part and parcel of the long and continuing popular effort to make of Philadelphia a city of human flourishing and gorgeous memory for its people: that which requires no battle.
An ideal. A goal.
Of her own work, Syd Carpenter chose this for inclusion in this show:
Storage 1, clay, glass, steel wood, 2017, and details. Syd Carpenter, American, born 1953. Collection of the artist.
The artist is representing her mother and the land. Both providers: persistent, stable, protective. The glass contains lentils. There is also a representation of kidney beans.
This is one of two works the juror chose from the collection of the museum to include in this exhibition:
Trayvon Martin, Most Precious Blood (1995- fatally shot by a neighbour watchman in 2012, American), acrylic, matte medium and watercolour paper, and detail. Barbara Bullock, American born 1938. Woodmere Museum of Art.
A young life torn up and shredded in a moment of racist hate.
Bound and Bounded, or Meiner’s Folly, 2017, found objects. Jake Beckman, American born 1982. Courtesy of the Production Language Factory.
The artist concentrates on issues of race, class, scarcity, consumption, sustainability.
This is, of course, a representation of the bafflingly complex intimacy of the races in the United States.
Interior, 2018, oil, chalk, wax and charcoal on board on panel, and detail. Michael Grimaldi, American born 1971. Loaned by the artist.
Upper: 10/365/2017: I am
Lower: 20/365/2017: In my power, I am Magic,
Both made in 2017 and both dye-infuse aluminum. Elena Bouvier, American born 1962. Loaned by the artist. (With light interference).
The artist took a photo of herself for 1, 214 consecutive days as a record of changes in mind, emotions and body as she ages.
Half Full, 2017, organza, dyed wool, wood, paint, zipper. Loaned by the artist. Anthony Bowers, American born 1984.
A representation of male aging.
Laying Figure, 2018, archival inkjet print on silk. Cynthia Porter, American born 1958. Loaned by the artist.
The artist’s memory of her mother sewing and grappling with material situates her in her life and artistic practices today, and steadies her.
Tea Time in the Henhouse of the Long Hairs, 2016, oil on canvas, wood, ceramic tile, twenty-four karat gold leaf, human hair, down feathers. Inga Kimberley Brown, American born 1970. Loaned by the artist.
The artist is remembering the women and men of her Georgian and North Carolinian family: farmers and carpenters among the men; and the women described in the family as ‘hens’.
Here an image of the business of a woman’s life, juggling a million things; protected by spiritual powers.
Ophelia II, 2017, photointaglio polymer print. Sophie Sanders, American born 1970. Loaned by the artist.
The referents of this beautiful reimagining of Ophelia are several: images of women created by the PreRaphaelites and the American artist Mary Cassatt; a yoga pose of self-protection, the beauty of our natural environment, the vulnerability of women, and the fact of racial diversity at a time of threat to Hispanic Americans and Afro-Americans, the urge to quiet and healing at a time of political turmoil in the United States.
Aftermath, 2018, steel, and detail. Evan Eisner, American born 1955. Loaned by the artist.
Displacement caused by physical disruption. A landscape alien and unreadable and hostile to the human who has been displaced.
Schuylkill River Viaduct. View from the East Bank, Clearing Fog, oil on linen. Patrick Connors, American born 1958. Private collection on loan to Woodmere Museum of Art.
A river known to a large number of Philadelphians for physical activities in a spectacular setting; and for the summer gathering of families, of clans.
Weedrock, 2017, stoneware with slip and underglaze decoration, and detail. Loaned by the artist.
A gardener re-introduced into her garden of gorgeous chartreuse and fuchsia wildflowers a weed and a piece of rock which had been thrown out; and a tealeaf. A golden bead of perspiration fell onto the tealeaf chrysalis and what grew from that was the weedrock.
Market-Frankford El, 2016, acrylic, photo collage and mixed media on canvas, and detail. Leroy Johnson, American born 1936. Loaned by the artist.
The artist uses discarded materials and ephemera.
The El is part of the subway system in Philadelphia which is above ground in some of its legs. The artist explains how this environment of structures, and trains, and a pattern of known noises, and of people moving, provided stability as he was growing up and still provides stability in memory.
Panopticon, 2018, wool and cotton yarn on rug warp cloth. Tabitha Arnold, American born 1995.
The artist studied Afghan war rugs whose decorative aspects tend to deflect from their difficult commentary.
This work memorializes the Eastern State Penitentiary, the panopticon (prison) in Philadelphia which was operational from 1827 until 1971. Today it is a site for the display of the creative arts.
In the quiet which hand work of this kind enforces, the artist remembers not only the history of this building but also reminds that textile work, which has, in the West, been the work of women and racial minorities, is an activity now for more and more people.
My Studio Interior with Fig Tree, 2016, oil on linen, and detail. Daniel Dallman, American born 1942. Loaned by the artist.
Self-portraiture as an exploration of oneself in the world. Or the other way round.
Idea of American Exceptionalism, 2016, archival pigment ink. Jay Roth, American born 1975. Loaned by the artist.
Devastation to the city’s economy caused by repeated economic recession. The artist calls into question what makes up the idea of American Exceptionalism.
That Which Requires No Battle, 2018, porcelain clay with celadon and luster glazes, concrete, and detail. Terry Saulin, American born 1965. Loaned by the artist.
This most beautiful piece has a name as beautiful.
The source of the work is an Italo Calvino tale in which Marco Polo describes to Kubla Khan all the wonders of the cities which he has visited in his empire.
A series of layered and interlocking memories of the cities the traveller has come to know: streets, buildings, gardens: treasured as he treasures peace, beauty, and human flourishing. As lustrous as the porcelain of this work’s flesh.
Saint Anna and the Virgin Mary as a Child, from the series Corpus, 2013-2016, ceramic, and detail. Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru, 1962. Loaned by the artist.
Cultural inheritance, body, land, religious belief.
A sumptuous, unafraid, joyful, knowing, rich affirmation of a legacy which is sustaining its people in a new land.
Eve, 2016, acrylic paint, glitter canvas. Henry Bermudez, Venezuelan, born 1951. Loaned by the artist.
A sumptuous, unafraid, joyful, knowing, rich affirmation of a legacy which is sustaining its people in a new land.
Orange chromatic ewer, ceramic and casein paint. Douglas Herren, American born 1962. Loaned by Peters Projects Gallery.
This is partly wheel-built and partly hand-built. It is based on the shape of a traditional pottery which the mind- hand of the artist has pushed to evolve.
Shine, 2017, inkjet print on San Gabriel Baryta fine art paper. Cheryl Tracy, American born 1975. Loaned by the artist.
The spirit of That which requires no battle captured by the eye-hand of an artist of great skill.
Rockets House, 2017, fired clay. Matthew Courtney, American born 1965. Loaned by the artist.
The artist represents V-2 missiles as a part of the male body in a statement of his disregard for the current political doctrine of endless war.
American Girl, 2015, oil, wax, paper collage on canvas. Perky Edgerton, American born 1953. Loaned by the Gross McCleaf Gallery.
The artist is commenting on the liveliness of a Mexican-American community of her acquaintance; and on the skill with which its young people navigate their two cultures.
Valley Broom, screenprint on silk, acrylic on cut wood, and embroidery. Eva Wylie, American born 1979. Loaned by the artist.
Rally Together from a series called Come Together, oil on wood. Kathleen Spicer, American born 1959.
The artist is commenting on the particular experience of women described by the #MeToo movement. The black underlay represents the experience which women have had to keep secret; in a field of beauty and purity. In the center the void of meaningful leadership.
Whitney Houston/Shirley Chisholm Urn, 2017, porcelain, china paint, luster. Roberto Lugo, American born 1981. Loaned by the artist and Wexler Gallery
Freedom Cups (Group): Underground code printed on hand-built red stoneware, iron oxide, underglaze, slip glaze, 2018. Yinka Orafidiya, American born 1980. Loaned by the artist
American Dream, 2017, digital composite, and detail. James Morton, American born 1942. Loaned by the artist.
The artist, who is self-taught, is commenting on the dream endlessly deferred. Being dismantled, hacked away, diminished at the current moment by the current national administration.
The United States has had more years of slavery than years in which slavery has been illegal. Remediation efforts are being stopped one by one.
5 thoughts on “That Which Requires No Battle: Woodmere’s 77th Annual Juried Exhibition”
Thank you for this beautiful and thoughtful post! I am proud to be included in the exhibition. Syd and the Woodmere staff created very powerful correspondences and conversations in the way they arranged our work.
I agree with you that the juror’s eye and discrimination is very skilled. More than anything I am glad to live in a community with this creativity and diversity! I shall remember your own work included in the exhibition for a long time………
Thank you Sarah! I appreciate your perspective in affirming the expression of our interdependence and shared humanity. You are prescient in your writing about art that requires no battle, an ideal. We lean into the formal tools of expression as an act of resistance and relationship.
Thank you Sarah for this beautiful article and all of the lovely photo documentation. I am beyond honored to have been selected to participate in this exhibition. Syd has long been one of my favorite ceramic artists and professors. The whole exhibition is marvelous, but to be included in this particular group of Philadelphia Ceramic artists was a once in a life time chance. Everything about the show is so very special and each carefully considered conversation between the works is powerful. (I was thrilled to find my work is positioned just across from my undergrad instructor, Ken Vavrek and also across from Leroy Johnson, who was actively working in the clay studio’s space at the same time I was taking classes… both tremendous influences.) Again, Thank you for this lovely document to remember this incredible opportunity. Warmly, Terri Saulin
You, your fellow artists and artisans keep our spirits moving upwards towards what is possible and good. For all of us! It is really I who thank you and all of you, Terri. Sarah
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