The Project House Gallery brings ‘Joy and Gravity’ to the RAD

MIDCENTURY MODERN: Julie Nellenback Henry’s latest show, ‘Joy and Gravity,’ culls inspiration from her grandparents’ home in the Adirondacks. Photos of "Seneca Falls," left, and "Ready Made" courtesy of Marghe Means

Gravity is a feeling, says Atlanta-based multimedia artist Julie Nellenback Henry.

“Creative people are restless, but gravity comes with maturity,” she explains. “My feet are now on the ground, and that feels good. The joy feels even better.”

Joy and Gravity, an aptly named exhibition featuring Henry’s signature collages, accentuates shared sentience by layering paint and found textiles — sheets, aprons, pillowcases — to create unabashedly imperfect art. “I invite the viewer to feel the warmth, see how obviously handmade it is, and fall in love with imperfection,” says Henry. The show opens at The Project House Gallery @ Curve Studios on Friday, March 13.

At just 240 square feet, The Project House Gallery is Asheville’s newest, most intimate exhibit space, and curator Marghe Means’ latest, most radical project. An art consultant in the corporate sphere, Means has spent the last 30 years curating art that works for conglomerates like Coca-Cola and Aflac. Now, she is curating art that works for her.

“I’ve met so many different artists over the years but haven’t had the opportunity to showcase their work. I want to bring them to communities where they haven’t had exposure,” says Means.

To that end, The Project House Gallery will rotate regional artists bimonthly. Some are conceptual in style, others representational. “Not necessarily every show is for everyone,” Means admits. Nor are the shows meant to feel cohesive. “Why and how people select artwork is a personal decision, and my personal art collection is eclectic,” she says.

Rather, the space itself provides continuity. A little smaller than the average master bedroom, the gallery feels intentional but dramatic in its minimalism. Visitors give their undivided attention to one artist and will be provided with text that describes that artist’s point of view. Means envisions Henry’s collages being especially powerful there — the perfect showcase for what Henry calls a “pared-down, visual language.”

“Her pieces are highly textured and dimensional. There are nuances you can only pick up in person,” says Means, who rents studio space to Henry at Little Tree Art Studios in Atlanta. Charged with “finding a rhythm” for the next year at The Project House Gallery, she is reaching deep into her personal database of artists. She imagines Henry will serve as a counterpoint for everything to come.

“She will bring an unconventional perspective to the River Arts District,” Means says.

Henry’s “collage paintings” of repurposed textiles are a relatively new development in her repertoire. Though she has always been a self-described dumpster diver — forever inclined to rehab jettisoned materials — the milestone of turning 50 gave her pause. And so, Henry reflected on her roots in the Adirondacks of New York, where her grandparents’ home was rife with midcentury modern furniture, her mother’s renderings from design school at Rochester Institute of Technology and an overall tenor of creativity.

Henry then experienced a crystalline moment of self-awareness: Subconsciously, through observing her grandparents, she had always believed that if you “made something with your hands, people would love and respect you.” In creating, she was simply seeking love.

That sense of unapologetic humanity infuses her current work, as do the warm and modern sentiments of her grandparents’ home. The effect is subdued, quiet and poetic. “There’s almost some raising of hope there,” Henry says. “A soulfulness, an honesty.” Joy and gravity, if you will.

WHAT: Joy and Gravity
WHERE: The Project House Gallery @ Curve Studios, No. 3 River Arts Place, and
WHEN: Opening Friday, March 13, 5-8 p.m. with an artist talk on Saturday, March 14, 2 p.m. Exhibition remains on view through May 7


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About Lauren Stepp
Lauren Stepp is an award-winning writer with bylines here in these mountains and out yonder, too.

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