Between bold screen prints of nostalgic objects from the past and cosmic paintings of women floating through a star-filled universe, “You Are Here” attempts to locate a time and place that feels like home. Currently on view at the Gallery at Hotel Indigo and curated by Didi Dunphy, the exhibition investigates the complex relationships between people and their domestic environments through the works of Amanda Jane Burk, Tae Lee, Eli Saragoussi and Chasity Williams.
Tae Lee, a Los Angeles-based artist and former Athenian, explores human consciousness in relation to the larger universe through his paintings. Gracing the cover of Flagpole this week, his portrait “Are you alone? Are you lonely?” is a beautiful image of two women facing opposite directions, their translucent bodies melding into a tapestry of pastel pink and blue starbursts. Part of a larger series called “Holy Oblivion” that is well worth exploring further on taelee.net, Lee feels that the painting reflects a point in his life when he was in peak form when it comes to “being here now”—feeling physically healthy, maintaining a disciplined meditation practice and freeing his mind from distractions.
“I think the mystics of all religions and cultures—Sufis, Zen Buddhists, a couple New Age writers—all come to the same conclusion, that we are all aspects of a divine source. Differing in technicality, but universal in the idea of interconnectedness,” says Lee. “I just try to be open and present, and let the artwork come through, myself being a conduit.”
Selected from another series called “Floral Force Field,” the portrait “Flower” depicts a woman with amorphous forms sprouting off of her body like segmented, growing appendages. Standing against a contrasting black background, she’s painted in cotton candy and sunset tones, and wears a strong, slightly serious expression.
“I was thinking about ‘expansion’ as a concept, and how we stretch out and influence the world around us with our will and emotions,” says Lee. “I’m fascinated in the transition from the micro to the macro, or from the personal to the political. The ripple that begins with the state of someone’s emotions, and the continuation influencing the physical realm is so intriguing.”
From an early age, Lee has used painting as a way of contextualizing new concepts, allowing the artistic process to double as a dedicated time for personal reflection and meditation on inner thoughts.
“I believe in the idea of manifestation, and when you keep on conjuring a certain dimension, the universe will deliver it,” says Lee. “Everyone’s creativity brings about the world you desire, to you, like a beacon. This sounds mystical, because I’m not good at explaining it, but it’s actually pretty practical… Personally, I am always drawn to the esoteric and a little psychedelic, and I can say that my painting has helped me to find ‘the others’ like me. Creativity brings about this process faster than buying the signifiers of the culture that you are interested in.”
Saragoussi, who also sings and plays bass in the band Baby Tony and the Teenies, creates fantastical, figurative works that alternate in medium between embroidered felt, illustration and tempera-painted cardboard cutouts. The familiarity and playfulness of her materials combined with their bright, friendly colors establish the works as approachable, bringing viewers in for closer evaluation of the subtle undertones of melancholy and disconnectedness that run through her work. Bound within cartoonish, golden-yellow frames, two of her mischievous embroidered creatures are accessorized with amulet-like paw and claw bracelets, allowing the viewer to imagine the narrative.
Burk, familiar to many locals as the current studio manager at the Lyndon House Arts Center and former owner of Double Dutch Press, focuses on inanimate objects of sentimental value from her past. Applying non-traditional techniques to printmaking methods like relief and screen printing, she treats these objects, such as a wall-bound rotary telephone, as if they were characters offering wormholes to another time. A vibrant trio of folding lawn chairs, each woven with its own distinct color combination, recalls a hot summer through bands of hot pink, yellow and orange that seem to radiate past the limits of the paper.
Williams, a Tampa, FL-based artist currently pursuing an MFA at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, plays with ideas of decadence, excess and “all things possible at all times” by creating busy layers of clashing patterns, textures and colors. Speaking to the complexity of cultural identity, tiny flurries of humans are painted directly onto wooden boards, performing all sorts of activities: riding a horse, nursing a baby, playing acoustic guitar, checking a phone, running a marathon, dancing and so on. With all setting or context stripped away, their simple coexistence magnifies how everyone is experiencing their own separate reality but together in real time.
Outdoors in the hotel’s GlassCube, a literal glass cube dedicated to site-specific installations that rotate biannually, Taylor Shaw presents “Keepin’ It Classic,” an homage to quintessential Athens imagery. Given the space’s unique position at a visible street corner, the installation feels like a nostalgic roadside attraction welcoming tourists and visitors to the Classic City.
Using the block lettering style popularized by vintage state postcards, Shaw spells out Athens in three-dimensional letters painted with details of local establishments like the Morton Theatre, Creature Comforts and Kelly’s. Incorporating the bright colors, beach kitsch and coastal imagery of Shaw’s home state of Florida, the installation features miniature golf holes, a pink flamingo, an alligator skull and illuminated palm trees.
“You Are Here” will remain on view through June 10, while “Keepin’ It Classic” will be installed until fall.
Like what you just read? Support Flagpole by making a donation today. Every dollar you give helps fund our ongoing mission to provide Athens with quality, independent journalism.