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Photo via Melissa Ralston-Jones

By: Emily Chauvin

You missed it! The Gallery at the Visual and Performing Arts Center just deconstructed their first show of the year, titled ‘neither here nor there (or And).’ The paintings were re-wrapped in the plastic and cardboard they arrived in by students of Melissa Ralston-Jones’ Gallery Interactions Class. The movable walls were hiked back up into a cluster in the middle of the room. The Gallery Assistant is enjoying a few weeks off. The space is set back to default.

Let’s head back to the beginning. Opening night, the tables were set with the best Sodexo has to offer-nearly passably french cheese, bitter good coffee, raw fish on slices of baguette. And three of the featured artists arrived as a group. The mingling began. I timed my meandering around the gallery by sideways glances at the other patrons, estimating how long they will spend in front of the next painting before I can get a gander. But I’m not impatient. Actually, I wonder if I’m a clog in the stream. You see, these artworks seemed to demand my extended staring.

When the artists talk began, my impression was confirmed. Painter Stephanie Pierce described her process as looking, for a very long time, at the object of her painting. Looking for the subject in her own environment. “There’s something in the world around me that I’m going to have a relationship with.” In her essay for the catalogue for the show, she describes her relationship with time and light. “As light moves through space in a continuous wave, I respond to changes that occur.” In a painting that potentially depicts these changes occurring in her own studio, her face seems to peek out of a slit in the center, as if her transitions occur at a different speed than that of her surroundings, and by painting, she is attempting the reconcile those interweaving wavelengths. “The painting opens up to me…then I work towards that elusive thing.” To read more about her process, maybe you can track down one of the few remaining catalogues from the gallery assistant at the information desk, but no guarantees. You simply should have been there.

Gideon Bok similarly evokes the painting from his present environment. He paints his studio over many months, and depicts its changes over that time. In a nearly six foot long piece of rag paper, Bok draws his studio with an almost fishbowl lens. “As I moved down the wall in the drawing I drew the part of the room as it unfolded behind me. The drawing depicts a 360 degree view of the room.” The way his body responded to the demand of the blank canvas transformed the object of his eyes, challenging our notions of a ‘room’ in the first place. In this exhibit, a room is no longer the static, solid entity that holds us. Rather, we are compelled to hold it, intimately within us, and to express the unique experience of each possible view.

A room is known. “Like trying to describe a color with words, a painter reaches for what is not already known” says curator of the show, Matt Murphy, in his introduction to the catalogue. What is not already known is the internal liaison with the material world that is any action. The artist attempts to express that liminality-they arbitrate the moment, or movement, between thought and action. They act from pure possibility.

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Photo via Melissa Ralston-Jones

Too bad the possibility of you seeing this show is utterly none, now! The space is still there but the place created by the artworks is gone. The hundreds of hours that went into choosing works to be displayed, rearranging them, and lighting them, have served and politely packed themselves away. Even I, as the gallery assistant at the reception desk in the hall, sitting there eight hours a week, feel remorse at not having stared into the canvases of collage and pencil and paint in exposed layers nearly enough.

The gallery transitions faster than most rooms, from an intentionally built castle of

-kinetically felt anachronism (Rachel Hellman’s futuristic, clean-edged saturated plywood,)

-imaginary doorways (Stephanie Peirce’s revelations in patience,)

-mind-maps (Samantha Bates’ doodled remembrance of miles of hikes,)

-recycled thresholds (Sam King’s cut-up and re-use of paintings in new collages,)

-nature-changing gestures (Matt Murphy’s sculptural paintings,) or

-time-traveling machines (Gideon Bok’s studio snapshots,)

to just a blank room.