Just prior to the great solar eclipse which traversed our country a few weeks ago, I attended the opening of a show at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center entitled Edge of Perception featuring the latest work by Pleasant Ridge based artists Mallory Feltz and Emily Bruns. These two artists complement each other well in their spare color palette choices, a keen and sensitive use of the gallery space, and a focus on the meditative qualities of the work itself.
The opening was well attended and the sunlight casting through the windows at the KHAC’s Mansion House gallery appeared to have been purposefully utilized by the artists, much of whose work involves light and environment. I knew I wanted to return to the gallery at a later date to spend more time with the work in a quiet, more meditative manner. Merely by chance, I had the great fortune to witness over two minutes of eclipse totality before I was to return to the show to view the work once more. The eclipse had me thinking of our place in the universe, this earth as our home and how we inhabit it, how we as human beings experience the shifting qualities of light as seasons change one into the next, and how we as a collective community of sky-gazers came together for a few minutes to witness something special. As it turns out, these concepts were very much the same notions Bruns and Feltz were contemplating when putting together their work for this show.
In her artist’s statement Bruns writes:
“My art making is a meditative process that begins with tracing an edge created by light. My work is about time, meditation, endurance, and the ebb and flow of life. My motivation for creating art is to provide an opportunity for people to connect to one another through a shared experience.”
In the pieces entitled Light Meditation, Oak Pinhole and Sol Duc, Bruns follows the forms created by natural light and interprets them in these abstractions, which seem at once non-sensical and familiar. Depending upon where in the space the viewer places oneself, the work shifts and changes along with the light itself. The viewership of each work of art is different depending upon the time of day and where one might be in the gallery. It is this very liminality, which makes these works so captivating.
Obsessive art-making is a vein which clearly runs through the heavily process-laden work of Mallory Feltz as well. Feltz’s work uses repeated forms to explore the concept of home.
In her statement she writes:
“I am interested in what people consider to be their homes, and what the importance of that consideration is to their understanding of their environment.”
In her series Nightbears, Feltz tackles home-centered and family-based fears, rendering these notions in symbolic concepts of representation, which feel like warning signs, though subtle ones at that. That they are placed on the bellies of teddy bears, gives these fears a comforting and familiar place to land in domesticity and memory, allowing a contemplation of basic human fear outside of first hand experiences.
Repetition of form continues further in the installation work entitled The Remembered (paper birds). In this work, delicately crafted cut-paper-construction birds flock in one corner of the gallery creating a whimsical environment in three dimensions, while the concept continues further into the next room in the artist-designed wallpaper covering that space. The site-specific installation is a nod to the Victorian era mansion which houses the gallery space. This piece was created in honor and memory of Feltz’s father-in-law, Dale.
“The birds are black and white cardinals. Cardinals are symbols of loved ones who have passed, and if you see a cardinal it’s supposed to be a loved one visiting you. I wanted there to be an immersive experience for visitors to feel the transition between 2-d to 3-d and to make a correlation between an abstracted idea to one that feels more physically real… this is the feeling of coming to terms with the thought that your parents will someday die. That everyone will someday die, that we are not invincible. However, even though there is grief, there should also be the celebration of the memories. “ Mallory Feltz
Much like the recent eclipse event, the collection of works in this show, Edge of Perception, asks us to pause for a moment and ponder our very humanity in the reverent and eloquent quietude made possible by the environment at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center, a humanity which emanates from nature, while seeking shelter from it in our own homes. The notion of the human home environment is strong in Feltz’s other works in the show. Once again, repeating forms, this time symbols of house and home, domesticity and comfort, such as house, embroidery hoop, nightlight, picket fence.
The works have a depth to them alluding to memory and personal familial narrative, while still maintaining a universal and evocative tone to them. The material choices of both artists are familiar things transformed beyond their mundane purposes. In spending time with these works, viewers seem to be encouraged to see their home spaces in fresh new ways, and to step outside and ponder shifting light patterns as the wheel of the year turns. This show is meditative and cohesive and well worth the time to see it.
The Kennedy Heights Arts Center is located at 6546 Montgomery Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45213. Edge of Perception runs through September 24th. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 10-5, and Saturdays 11-4.