The Stars We Steer
by Jodi Hays
In June of 1995, The Hale Bopp comet traced its feathery, ghostly course across the sky; stunning and beautiful, yet sinister in its association with the Heaven’s Gate cult. As the comet soared, we gazed at night with planted feet on earth. News outlets shared a bizarre cacophony of images and stories, including everything from stars to sneakers, matter and faith, beauty and death.
Artists in The Stars We Steer By create work that leans into the gritty and subconscious, remnants and ghosts, not unlike a gothic tradition, yet considering a wider, more inclusive and complicated path. Like the Hale-Bopp, glory and wretchedness seem to need each other.
Charting the position of painting and tracing/navigating it’s “digressions” through the drawn, provisional, damaged or cut mark, reframing convention and deconstruction, these artists build an iconography, an inexhaustible, light-emitting mark. At times the mark is measurable, upfront, apparent. Like in the daytime, the works are made with very clear processes but open up profound ways of “reading” the work. Brandon Donahue’s efficient printed ellipses are made from the repetitive bounce of a basketball, laying out metaphors of exhaustion and play. Mandy Rogers Horton also considers repetition through scouring trade magazines, and cutting out chairs as collaged clutter; the mapping of consumer. Kristi Hargorve poetically considers the resonance of a home, a pin on a Google Map, isolated yet resonant with the habits of ritual and living.
Sometimes the consideration of the mark is less frontal--a side gate path, overgrow, diffuse. Let’s call it Night. Matt Christy’s transgressive and quotidian printed techniques using oil pastel illuminate a sound made material. Jane Fox Hipple’s work resides in a confident and expansive materiality using reclaimed materials driven by titles. Eleanor Aldrich’s painted surfaces wiggle and wobble, falling off any kind of straight definition we might presume to have about a stroke or path, paint and caulk.
So as not to irresponsibly offer an unnecessary, and untruthful “either/or”, another condition could be called Expanse. These works have been made in the past two months of isolation, as artists figure out a practice in relation to a past habit. An unfettered, boundaryless situation is what Hamlett Dobbin’s work asks us to consider, through his small scale packed drawings. Sarah Boyts Yoder’s paintings present as color maneuvers, but the afterimage is energy and heft. Finally, what can we make of Desmonds Lewis’ large scale works negotiate of history and mark through found and industrial materials.
I conceived of this show way before COVID-19. In a “new” social-distancing world, we track and cover microscopic points of contact. Our homes are a condition for presence and discovery, but also anxiety and isolation. Artists living and working in the south negotiate the sacred/profane bifurcation, asking us to root ourselves solidly in the ambiguity of material. Day, night, or expanse, each of these conditions presents worthy offerings to look, notice, be alarmed, be moved.
1. from a 1996 interview by Laura Miller with David
2. Pema Chondron
3. Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable
condition. -James Baldwin
4. It’s not down on any map. True places never are.
Moby Dick, Melville.