January 20 - May 7, 2006
Fairchild Gallery

This exhibition investigates the multi-faceted work of five contemporary artists, each of whom employs multiples of a single form in inventive ways that result in accumulated visions. The show features five artists who make sculptural assemblages : June Ahrens, Elisa D'Arrigo, Carol Hepper, Nene Humphrey, and Rebecca Smith. The artist begins with a discrete form – sometimes it is a “ready-made” object that has a specific association or a function in our everyday lives – sometimes it is a form fabricated entirely from scratch. As each artist undergoes a labor-intensive exploration with her medium and process – that involves addition, repetition, and manipulation – the overall form takes on a life and spirit all its own. The work represents an experience that is both intensely physical and spiritual in nature and it is the compulsive, repetitive activity, and the explorations into domestic, feminist, and social issues that bind them together.

June Ahrens finds much potential from the simple and commonplace – she breathes new life into an eggshell or a safety pin. Often she turns a sculptural project into a collaborative effort, working closely with diverse communities. She involves children, senior citizens, and the socially disadvantaged in an effort to generate hope and healing.

Working intuitively, Elisa D'Arrigo makes many small elements of painted fabric which she then stitches together, creating organic assemblages that simmer with unleashed energy. While perhaps not a conscious goal, her work often delves into issues that relate to personal events such as the fragility of life and the poignant bonds between a mother and child.

Nene Humphrey also employs the needle when making art; she is interested in maps and in neuroscience. Using scans of the human brain taken by an electron micrograph as a springboard, Humphrey's most recent work incorporates her “signature” – tightly wrapped organza forms that resemble rosebuds. One work can consist of thousands of these exquisitely fabricated blossoms, pinned directly onto the wall in configurations that are distant iterations of the initial brain scans.

Carol Hepper grew up on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota , and this experience has informed her aesthetic direction throughout her career. While her early work sometimes featured the skins of animals found in her immediate environment, Hepper has turned her attention to the diaphanous qualities of fish skins. In her recent work, she hand-stitches dried and treated fish skins while she experiments with light, tension, color, and movement.

Rebecca Smith uses her work as a vehicle to explore psychological disorders and language; a recent commission was based on Nü Shu , the secret language created centuries ago by Chinese women. One of her works in the exhibition refers to the alter egos of composer Robert Schumann; the other work at the Mead will be a site-specific wall drawing that translates the elusive poetry of Emily Dickinson into a different dimension.

For each of these artists, working is an intense and intimate exercise, reflecting a time-consuming and elaborate physical endeavor. As each assemblage in the exhibition embarks on its chameleonic journey, it acquires its own mysterious persona and demonstrates the valiant commitment and passion that drive these five women in their ongoing evolution as artists.


On Saturday, 8 April 2006, at 3:00 p.m., all five artists will be on hand to present a gallery talk in Fairchild Gallery. A reception will follow. This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Fine Arts and the Department of Women and Gender Studies. Exhibition support provided in part by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund.