March 30, 2006
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.—The artists June Ahrens, Elisa D’Arrigo, Carol Hepper, Nene Humphrey and Rebecca Smith will talk about “Some Assembly Required: Cumulative Visions,” an exhibition of their sculptural assemblages, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 8, in the Fairchild Gallery in the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College. A reception will follow in the Rotherwas Room. The talk and reception are co-sponsored by the Amherst College Departments of Fine Art and Women’s and Gender Studies. The Mead Museum is presenting “Some Assembly Required” until May 7. Support for the exhibition is provided in part by the Hall and Kate Peterson Fund.
“Some Assembly Required” investigates the multi-faceted work of artists who employ multiples of a single form in inventive ways that result in accumulated visions. Each work begins with a discrete form—sometimes a “ready-made” object that has a specific association or a function in our everyday lives, sometimes a form fabricated entirely from scratch. As each artist undergoes a labor-intensive exploration with her medium and process of 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. It is the intensive 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 is 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.
The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. More information is available on the museum’s Website or by calling the Mead Art Museum at 413/542-2335. All events are free and open to the public.