UK Art Museum is showing two new collections this fall, featuring all women artists. Both installations opened on September 14 and will be open through December 8.
Benediction from Bethany Collins is showing alongside Interwoven, which features a trio of artists.
“We called it Interwoven because it’s three women working in very different ways from different ways from different generations,” said curator Janie Welker.
Interwoven combines the works of Joan Snyder, Judy Ledgerwood and Crystal Gregory for a complementary 12-piece exhibit.
“It’s three women who are using either materials or symbols that are associated with being feminine and therefore were discounted by the art world for a long time,” said Welker.
Welker has been curating Interwoven for well over a year, she said, but had been looking to show Snyder’s work since the museum permanently acquired two of her pieces in 2014.
Snyder came up as an artist in the 1960s, when abstraction and minimalism were both becoming popular.
“The catchphrase became the personal is the political,” said Welker of the time Snyder was breaking through as an artist. Welker said Snyder’s work reflects that in its emotional narrative. Her pieces in this collection are both painting and sculpture, said Welker, as Snyder uses twigs, fabric and flowers to add dimension to her works.
In Judy Ledgerwood’s pieces, the ties to feminism are seen through her participation in the pattern and decoration movement, especially craft-based arts. Welker said Ledgerwood grew up in a family where the women made quilts. Ledgerwood’s Grandma’s Flower Garden, which at 12 feet across is the largest piece in the exhibit, is a quilt done in paint.
“In a sense, it’s an homage to them and a nod to the sophistication of what they were doing,” said Welker.
Crystal Gregory is the third artist featured in Interwoven and also an assistant professor of fiber arts in UK’s School of Art and Visual Studies.
“It’s a dream,” said Gregory of having her work shown in the UK Art Museum. “Working with Janie, of course, and these two artists have been my heroes for a very long time and they’re amazing amazing painters and to be able to show next to them – like I keep telling Janie, I’m over the moon.”
Gregory’s pieces in this exhibit are weavings that she then enmeshes in concrete.
Gregory said combining weaving with concrete interests her because it lets her explore the relationship between architecture and textiles.
“They’re very similar - they both serve the purpose of covering or giving privacy or shelter, but we gender these materials because of their material properties. We separate them and categorize them as opposites of a binary, so I was really interested in collapsing those things and putting them in the same plane” Gregory said.
“It’s funny because a lot of people look at this work, and it’s a gorgeous work, and they’re going ‘well how is this feminist’, like somehow it has to be stern or something,” said Welker of Gregory’s weavings.
Bethany Collins’ Benediction was curated by museum director Stuart Horodner.
“The thing that surprised both of us is how well artistically they mesh us,” said Welker of showing Benediction and Interwoven alongside each other.
Collins was one of the artists who gave a proposal on the Memorial Hall project, said Welker.
Although Collins’ exhibit was curated to coincide with 70 years of integration at UK, her works are not specifically tied to that landmark.
“All of my work deals with language and the use of language as a prism to interrogate other topics, such as race and history and national identity,” said Collins. “Language is the common denominator throughout everything and then I use it to think through other ideas and moments.”
One example of this in Benediction is Colorblind Dictionary, which took Collins a year to complete. It was made by erasing every instance of color in a standard dictionary.
“Calling it Colorblind Dictionary for me points to the absurdity of the possibility of a language without color and also of a world without color. It’s a kind of pointed humorous critique at the possibility of such a thing. So maybe that ties into this moment,” said Collins.
Most of Collins’ pieces in Benediction are part of what she calls the Loss Series.
“All of the drawings were made after the 2016 election and I was looking for language of loss – how do you say that the world you knew has shifted and in a way no longer exists?”
The wall-mounted pieces are works of erasure; Collins creates them by printing a meaningful selected passage, then erasing some words so that what is left is a kind of poetry, said Welker.
“The erasure is a way to edit out everything that doesn’t feel like the exact moment in which we lost the world and how do you say that, how do you give voice to that moment,” said Collins.
An exhibit from Laura Letinsky is also showing on the upper level of the UK Art Museum. Letinsky, a photographer, will speak at UK on October 25 as part of the Robert C. May lecture series.
Judy Ledgerwood and Crystal Gregory will be in conversation with curator Janie Welker on October 5.
Benediction, Interwoven and Laura Letinsky: Recent Works will be open through December 8 at the UK Art Museum, located in the Singletary Center.