Art NotesArts & Culture

It’s a Small World: Lisa Freeman’s ‘Repercussion’ at OCAF

Stepping into one of multimedia artist Lisa Freeman’s “Miniature Worlds,” it’s easy to get lost in all of the ways she’s transformed tiny materials into intricate environments with big messages. After receiving the honor of “Best in Show” for an assemblage in the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation’s annual “Southworks” exhibition last year, Freeman was offered the opportunity to present a solo show of artwork at the gallery. Opening this Friday, “Repercussion” focuses on her thought-provoking found-object assemblages that explore significant social and political issues.

After years of identifying primarily as a painter, Freeman began shifting into collage and assemblage as her dominant medium. Keeping up with the cost of painting supplies had become difficult, and serious injuries from a car accident resulted in chronic pain in her wrists and arms. Already experienced at finding interesting “this will be good for something one day” objects, she began putting her collection of old photographs, trinkets and other miscellaneous treasures to good use.


Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson

“The more I worked with cast-off objects, the more my mind was opened to different ways of seeing seemingly ordinary material. The first miniature world I made was a game changer for me,” says Freeman. “I was able to use a vintage photo of a little boy I have had since I was a child. The image was obtained at an antique store with my parents. They went antiquing frequently and would bring home old furniture and other pieces with past lives. With this first miniature world, I had created a possible realm for an unknown face, and I was hooked.”

Visitors on their way to OCAF should make a pit stop at the entrance of Harris Shoals Park, located less than a mile away, to see Freeman’s “Little Big Girl,” an 8-foot-tall panel created after a two-year hiatus from painting for the City of Watkinsville’s public art project, “Artscape Oconee: The Monuments of Artland.” Her painted portraits of children have always been particularly distinctive and immediately recognizable by their eyes, which often reveal subtle expressions of anxiety or weariness through their wrinkles and dark shadows. Despite their small stature and playful clothes, their eyes can appear decades older than their otherwise youthful faces. This peculiar detail creates the illusion of either making eye contact with someone wise beyond their years, or seeing one’s own gaze reflected back in the face of a child.

Interestingly, children continue to play central roles within Freeman’s assemblages, and the clever symbolism that once detailed her paintings has moved seamlessly into her miniature worlds. Here, however, the symbolism often references much darker themes, pulling from complex social issues and horrific historical events. In all of their innocence and naiveté, children act to disarm the viewer, non-threateningly inviting them to step closer, only to confront them with a powerful dose of reality once they absorb the surroundings. Populating these miniature worlds with children also speaks to how they are often left powerless and victimized through conflicts that are no fault of their own. 

“‘Repercussion’ literally refers to the unintended consequences of an action,” says Freeman. “The effect of past events or actions on individual lives. The aftereffects of intolerance and bigotry that ripple outwards from a particular action can evolve into hatred or violence. This can occur either on a small scale or on the world stage, but the results are equally damaging.”

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Photo Credit: Nicole Adamson

“Waiting Place,” a recreation of a refugee camp, presents children in makeshift shelters surrounded by a barbed wire fence. “Aftermath,” another miniature scene, includes young girls in gas masks standing in the shell of a burned out building. Several new wall-bound pieces frame black-and-white photographs of recurring faces among layers of burned paper, establishing elements of destruction and despair.

“My hope is that my work opens up a dialogue,” says Freeman,” to consider alternate points of view and how we as people of the world got to this point. Hopefully, my use of individual faces will help reinforce our shared humanity—that we are all connected to one another and have more in common with one another than not.”

An opening reception for “Repercussion” will be held Friday, Jan. 19 from 6–8 p.m. The event will also celebrate two other new exhibitions in the galleries. Curated by UGA graphic design professor Moon Jung Jang, “Typo-Poetry: Despite Black and White in Sound” is an collaborative project that experiments with how typography can be used as a method of writing poetry. Offering a multi-dimensional experience, “Resonance: A Bi-Sensory Art Exhibit” pairs visual artworks with complementary soundtracks that enrich the message, narrative or attitude of the piece. Each work will be accompanied by a QR code linking to the audio, so attendees are encouraged to bring a smartphone and earbuds. The show includes artwork by co-curators Melody Croft and Jackie Dorsey, as well as artists Mary Ann Cox, Kristen Hyink, Viviane Van Giesen, Mary Cims, Claire Clements, Bob Clements, Margaret Agner, Cheri Wranosky, Manda McKay and John Ahee. All three exhibitions will remain on view through Friday, Feb. 16.