Peer Perspectives: The Memories and Inspirations Behind "All Shall Be Well"
Works of Jacqueline Boyd and Louise Strawbridge could not be more different from one another, yet they flow seamlessly together in the new exhibition, “All Shall Be Well,” that opened at the Stanek Gallery on January 3, 2020, and will continue through the end of February. Exhibition’s title, synonymous with one of Strawbridge’s mixed media vessels on display, is an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, which enfolds in turn a quotation from fourteenth-century female mystic, Julian of Norwich. “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” could hardly be a more fitting message of hope from a show that gets to usher in the new decade. It is also the sentiment shared by both artists in their work, their outlook and their meditative, thoughtful creative process.
Jacqueline Boyd studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and began incorporating the old into the new by painting over her own paintings early in her academy days. Deconstructing and reworking, she allows some areas from previous renderings to remain and become re-absorbed into new combined imagery, where space and time merge, making room for something innovative, unexpected, vibrant and exciting to take place. While Boyd begins with a specific reference grounded in reality, a starting point of sorts, as she searches for meaning and feeling, through metamorphosis another painting begins to emerge. Hers is a soothing narrative of the familiar - trees she has known for a long while, a home she grew up in, empty rooms full of memories - told with an optimism of someone lucky enough to realize that all is well even when experience coupled with passage of time occasionally conspire to offer a certain kind of sadness for her artistic or personal consideration. Jackie talks about sitting down with her subject to listen quietly, putting her own self aside and allowing the journey to take her to that place of awe, known to and coveted by all creators, where authentic meaning of the work finally reveals itself to the imagination.
Working three-dimensionally with found objects, books and paper, Louise Strawbridge employs a process that is not dissimilar. She also departs from the intimate and the familiar in intuitive search for that ‘feeling,’ capable of transforming something ordinary into art, making her personal response to the material or an idea shareable and universal. Strawbridge’s work draws on her liberal arts education and her love of books and writing, which led her to learn bookbinding and papermaking along the way – manual, laborious, involved processes she found inspiring and meditative. The wear and tear of Louise’s book covers evokes a past; a life lived previously by her objects even as their main purpose was to impart content. Her hand-made paper -- steamed, stretched, pressed, dried, all in precise succession, particularly favoured by the artist when torn and mended – has traveled from Japan, Uganda and New York to be woven into Strawbridge’s aesthetic narrative. Louise is careful to preserve unique stories of her chosen material as she creates collages to harmonize with markings and damages on her book covers, a source of hidden beauty that is the inside of a book’s spine, or when crafting her vessels, whose rusting found metal and wire supports are a testimony to graceful aging.
Both artists push and pull, add and subtract, glue, paint, scribble, attach, concealing some things and revealing others, close their eyes and walk away, come back to double check, flip the work upside down or tape it over, all in intuitive search for something in their art that is larger than its initial intention, more profound than depiction of a place or a cover of a book. They both arrive instinctually at their respective finished product, for both a personal triumph of sorts, having persevered despite angst and doubt to allow a work of art to unfold as it may and then, just as importantly and just at the right time, to let it go.
Jacqueline Boyd and Louise Strawbridge will be sharing inspiration and stories behind their work on January 17, 2020, at the Stanek Gallery. Exhibition continues through February 29, 2020.