“Where are We (going)?” organized by independent curator and artist Emily Cheng, marks a new direction for Guild group exhibitions at Silvermine. This change is evidenced in the show’s title and theme, which are inspired by Guild Artist, Susan Sharp’s painting, “Where are We?” Unlike the traditional model of submitting work to a predetermined theme, this group show is selected from curatorial threads found in the paintings, prints, photographs and objects currently being produced by the Silvermine Guild membership. In her exhibition statement, Ms. Cheng suggests that the show can be thought of in philosophical terms akin to Paul Gauguin’s prophetic image, “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” However, unlike Gauguin’s tableau, which visually expresses his contemplation on the meaning of existence, Ms. Cheng writes, “The theme of uncertainty in this exhibition is not so much found in the overt content of the individual art works, but uncertainty as it is experienced through the viewing process…As in, What am I looking at? Where is this situated?”

The exhibition will feature work by the following Guild artists:

Tina Blackburn
Liz Dexheimer
Amanda Duchen
J. Henry Fair
Sandi Haber Fifield
Hanneke Goedkoop
Robert Gregson
Shelby Head
Karen Neems
Susan Sharp
Eve Stockton
Torrance York

Where are We (going)?

The title of Susan Sharp’s painting, Where Are We? Is the springboard for the theme of this exhibition of paintings, prints, photographs and objects.

As man continues his sophisticated quest to control the world, the fallout or blowback of unintended consequences compound inexorably. As each sector evolves in ever more convoluted and impenetrable ways, the larger terrain- Where are we?, and its’ companion question-Where are we going? becomes more complex leaving behind a befuddled population scrabbling to survive and make sense within a narrow and more localized sphere. The where, what and how of tomorrow is anybody’s guess. Where are we (going)? can also be thought of in more philosophic terms, as in the 1897-98 painting- Where do we come from, What are we and Where are we going? by Paul Gauguin. The 160 inch tableau of figures ponder the meaning of existence, beginning with birth on the right to the resignation of old age on the left. But regardless of which interpretation we deem more pressing- we continue to move forward- navigating the best we can, in spite of our blindness. We are an optimistic population, by and large, bound by our ignorance but filled with the will to live.

The theme of uncertainty in this exhibition is not so much found in the overt content of the individual art works, but uncertainty as it is experienced through the viewing process. In these works, there is a cognitive delay in piecing together the whats and the wheres. As in, What am I looking at? Where is this situated? We may feel slightly discombobulated while observing, or have the need to adjust or reframe our initial assumptions. Additionally, these works draw us into an encapsulated world. The private and fluid space inhabited by the gestural characters in Susan Sharp’s paintings, and the micro incidents in Hanneke Goedkoop’s watercolors create expanses for the eye to wander and explore. Bob Gregson’s geometric abstractions play with vertical, diagonal and planar relationships challenging the viewer to piece together part to whole (and hole).

It is a common belief that we can no longer rely on photography to give us reliable and factual information. However, the photography of Karen Neems, Sandi Haber Fifield, Torrance York and J. Henry Fair presents us with familiar images from the natural world, but at the same time deny us full access to the whole picture, casting an unknowable shadow on the familiar. The use of blurring in York and Fifield’s photos furthermore, is a perfect example of sight without clarity. Viewed at length, we may be forced to “go with the flow”- accepting that the partial view of the here and now may be the only thing we truly know.

Nature and flow incorporates change and uncertainty by its very definition. The gentleness and ease we often associate with Mother Nature can turn precarious as we are currently witnessing in the extreme global weather conditions. We found ourselves in a paradox when we marveled at the photographs of swirling orange oil amidst blue waters in the Gulf of Mexico, horror abutting beauty. Liz Dexheimer gives us a world of aquatic allure, but restrains from using nature’s harmonious color to give us a more complex view of nature and its future. Landscape in Eve Stockton’s expansive prints, reflect the natural world tweaked as if to foreshadow that the changing world might become subtly less recognizable. Though Tina Blackburn’s paintings are the unabashed spill, they also remind us that the combination of willfulness and unintended consequences can sometimes also produce delightful results.

While uncertainty is inherent in all creative endeavors, in Raku ware it is a given. Its’ firing process utilizes wood and straw, (not electricity or gas) and can produce a crackle glaze incorporating nature and spontaneity in the ceramic medium. Amanda Duchen’s Raku bowls open generously, like two cupped hands offering to hold, giving us an inside to nestle in and an outside sometimes in stark contrast–reminding us to suspend any attempt to ever know the entirety of any single thing in one take. Where are We (going)?

Emily Cheng