Amid the swirling, clanging commercialism of Asheville’s art scene during tourist season, three young women are presenting work that invites contemplation. Nicole McConville, Alena Hennessy and Lindsay Pichaske are exhibiting their own works, and in some instances, works in which they have collaborated using shapes and ideas common to all three. Their show is called in a quiet place, and though their mediums are different there are conceptual similarities that tie the pieces together.
Pichaske’s works continue her exploration of the dichotomy of the natural world; both its beauties and its terrors. Elements of the surreal are present in much of the work, such as in “Milk Teeth,” where a ceramic figure of a woman with grey mottled skin wearing only a low-slung skirt covered with open red mouths filled with threatening teeth. One of the most impressive works in the exhibition is Pichaske’s “The Levitator,” in which another delicate-but-motley female form floats mysteriously above a liver-like structure.
Hennessy exhibits a number of her comfortable minimalist works, but a number of her latest pieces have turned away from the whimsy of her early endeavors and have become more complex while maintaining the harmony and restful feel of her simple animal and plant silhouettes. She has retained the soft pastel colors in the newest creations, but has added needle work. The resulting textural effect gives the work great depth both visually and conceptually. In some works Hennessy has collaged rectangles of transparent papers on to her base and has embroidered tree branches or skinny stalks with flower forms around her usual iconic images of bunnies, deer and birds.
One Hennessy-McConville collaboration is called “Perched.” Several birds sit on a wire. The somber color and the circles in the work came from McConville while the stitching and the deep shiny surface are Hennessy’s.
McConville’s work embraces some of the same concerns as Hennessy’s but in a more challenging way. Her colors are not pretty, and she often uses bits of bone, dead birds and other natural elements referring to the transitory nature of life. These bits of departed existence are paired with human images, old drawings and vintage photographs. No need, however for the feelings of sadness associated with unclaimed pictures of deceased relatives: McConville says that some friends have given her photos to use in her pieces as a way of preserving the memories of their family members.
The people in the photographs seem to be in a state of halted decay. They are encased in rough, well-used boxes that could be thought of as coffins. They are surrounded by bits of debris—everything coated with beeswax—the colors muted into a symmetry of the past. There is no hint of nostalgia in these works, but neither are they morbid. McConville’s figures just seem to have moved from one layer of consciousness into another. The prevalence of wings and feathers would indicate that they might have flown through a portal into another realm.
This is an exhibition for thoughtful scrutiny. The pieces are imbued with layers of meaning to be gleaned only after a little effort on the part of the viewer. How lucky Asheville is to have young artists who make work with a point of view; work that is intelligent and mysterious—work for the mind as well as for the eye.
[Connie Bostic is an Asheville based painter and writer.]
who: in a quiet place
what: Works by Nicole McConville, Alena Hennessy and Lindsay Pichaske
where: Satellite Gallery (55 Broadway)
when: Through Friday, Nov. 30(www.thesatellitegallery.com or 505-2225)