Art NotesArts & Culture

Couch Potatoes and Purifying Plants: This Season at Lamar Dodd

From the preservation of contemporary Southern photography to the promotion of sustainable practices in the studio, this season’s gallery programming at the Lamar Dodd School of Art demonstrates how art provides a framework for making meaning of cultural activity. An opening reception for four new exhibitions will be held Friday, Jan. 29 from 6–8 p.m. and features a portrait booth, libations and snacks from Taziki’s and a DJ set by Electrophoria. All exhibitions will remain on view through Thursday, Feb. 25.

POTATO: Many artists’ most creative ideas arrive when their minds are truly free to wander. Finding inspiration from those “eureka” moments that only pure vegetation can induce, the exhibition “Potato” reclaims the insult of “couch potato” by materializing lofty daydreams into a physical homage to unproductive activity.

“When I thought up ‘Potato,’ my art was making use of intimate fabrics—bedsheets and clothing from my childhood—and thinking about the insides of the home, sensation and memory,” says Heather Foster, an MFA candidate in painting and drawing.

Foster invited her intermediate drawing undergraduate students to implement “Potato,” which disregards typical white-wall gallery presentation by having an all-over feel, much like any home. Photos, paintings, found objects and assemblages address themes of leisure and domesticity, but with a certain absurdity that reflects the strange lands where the mind often wanders while idle.

“The students started by making knickknacks—assisted readymades in which two different objects are slapped together,” says Foster. “So far we’ve got an ‘electric’ pudding boiler, a toothy toothbrush [and] a squid-looking toilet paper roll adorned with twisty ties and a feathered eyeball, among other curiosities.“

The ongoing cumulative exhibition operates as a constantly changing room, morphing each time a new piece is introduced or modified. Several of the students will contribute altered found furniture. 

“Expect to see a boob tube in lingerie, a flower bed, an opulent Birth of Venus stool, an antlered throne that’s been stabbed by a Guitar Hero controller. The class will also be creating still lives and graphite drawings within the exhibit when it’s been set up. They’ll be hung up like posters in a bedroom.” 

A Lunchtime Gallery Talk with Foster will be held Thursday, Feb. 9 at 12 p.m. in the Bridge Gallery.

PRESERVATIONIST: Interested in the advancement of green practices within the contemporary art studio, the Air Purifying Plants Proliferation Project (A-4P) was established to promote sustainable studio ecology at Lamar Dodd. Initially launched by faculty members Adrienne Colburn, Chris Hocking and Jon Swindler in anticipation of an international printmaking conference in San Francisco, A-4P has since developed into a collective composed of graduate students in printmaking and book arts as well as painting and drawing. 

In their latest project, “Preservationist,” A-4P collaborates with Alberta, Canada-based printmaker Sean Caulfield and Minnesota-based sculptor David Hamlow to create an interactive exhibition exploring sustainability and the environmental ethics of creating art. 

“It seems as though a lot of artists are ‘green’ in every other part of their lives, but somehow the studio is excluded,” says Ry McCullough, who co-curated “Preservationist” with Swindler. “A lot of us who’ve changed our studio habits have realized there’s a lot of undiscovered content, which reveals itself through small changes in materials usage and re-purposing. Ultimately, all artists strive to achieve a studio practice that is intellectually and creatively sustainable; therefore, this in many ways represents an extension of this pursuit.”

A roundtable discussion followed by a beer tasting with Southern Brewing Company will be held Wednesday, Feb. 17 from 3–5 p.m. in the Suite Gallery.

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“Sophie with Kittens, Sumner, Mississippi” by Maude Shyler Clay appears in “No Strangers Here”

PARALLELS: Brooklyn-based Jonathan Wahl’s abstracted charcoal drawings draw from Victorian mourning jewelry and precious gems, while the corsages and neckpieces of San Diego-based Sondra Sherman incorporate botanical symbolism, in which plants are used as metaphors for vice and virtue. Though working independently on opposite coasts, several parallels exist between the two artists; black in color, dark in subject and divergent in scale, their bodies of work challenge traditional perceptions of how jewelry should appear and what role it should serve.

“Jewelry has traditionally been a marker of class, status and wealth. It’s a significant participant in many humanizing exchanges such as engagements, weddings and death. Both Jonathan and Sondra’s work responds to the rich history of jewelry and ornament,” says Mary Hallam Pearse, exhibit curator and associate professor of jewelry and metals. 

Through the magnification and exaggeration of precious objects within Wahl’s drawings, the significance of certain components can be inflated or manipulated. Sherman’s corsages share an unsettling off-ness through their employment of steel, a material associated with mass industrial production and seldom used for jewelry.

A gallery talk with the artists will be held Friday, Jan. 29 at 2:30 p.m.

NO STRANGERS HERE: Part of “Pictures of Us: Photographs from The Do Good Fund Collection,” a multi-venue exhibition series presented by the Global Georgia Initiative of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, “No Strangers Here” features a collection of images from the 1970s to the present. Ranging from snapshots to portraits, the exhibit collectively reflects a diverse Southern cultural landscape. 

“I think the images convey a great range of styles but also emotions. It is so important to collect but also to display artists who are working in a particular region, if anything to exhibit how diverse those artists are in their subjective encounters with a site. Each artist has her own distinct take on what ‘Southern’ might be,” says gallery director Katie Geha. “There is a tension in each of the photographs that requires the viewer to press further, to imagine the lives of the figure portrayed or to reconsider more carefully, more slowly, the landscape that many of us are already so familiar with. In doing so, I hope the show will alter how the viewer sees the world, if even for a brief moment.”

The Do Good Fund, a Columbus-based charity aiming to build a high-quality collection of contemporary Southern photography, will also show works at the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries, Lyndon House Arts Center, Ciné, Athens-Clarke County Library and the Willson Center. Pictures of Us: Southern Photography Panel will be held at the Lyndon House on Friday, Feb. 19 at 3 p.m.