Laney Contemporary hosts outdoor reception, chance to safely see summer exhibitions in person

HAVE YOU missed doing arty things as much as I have?

I’ve written this before, but it’s been weeks since the last art opening I attended. (For those keeping score at home, it was José Ray’s show at the Grand Bohemian Gallery.)

As weeks went by and spring turned to summer, it felt like art was officially out of season. For the better part of this year, the only art I’ve seen in person is that which is already hanging on my walls and what I saw on Instagram.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved following what local artists are doing on social media, but there’s just something like seeing the work in person that I’ve been yearning for.

Now, the opportunity for art lovers to safely get their fix is here thanks to Laney Contemporary.

Laney Contemporary hosts outdoor reception, chance to safely see summer exhibitions in person
Laney Contemporary's lawn is the perfect setting for a socially distanced reception. Photo by Kevin Cooley

The gallery will host a Reception on the Lawn this Thurs., Aug. 13, from 5 to 9 p.m. for guests to view its two current exhibitions, “Structure of Comfort” by Blanche Nettles Powers and “Clerestory” by Abel Macias, Ben Tollefson, Betsy Cain, Hasani Sahlele, Katherine Sandoz, Namwon Choi and Trish Andersen.

Guests can take advantage of the sprawling lawn that Laney Contemporary overlooks and enjoy the feeling of an ordinary Laney reception, including the Krazian food truck onsite. Once you’re ready to go inside and view the art, face masks will be required, and the flow of people in and out of the gallery will be closely monitored.

This is an exciting opportunity to get some face time with wonderful art, as both “Structure of Comfort” and “Clerestory” are great exhibitions that deserve a view in person.

click to enlarge Laney Contemporary hosts outdoor reception, chance to safely see summer exhibitions in person
Work from Blanche Nettles Powers' "Structures of Comfort."

I’ll start downstairs with “Structure of Comfort.” Powers, a Savannah-based artist, creates monochromatic oil paintings on linen that is inspired by her love of fabric and the comfort it provides.

Powers’ focus on fabric started with her artist residency at MASS MoCA in 2017. The building complex was originally a textile factory, which got Powers thinking about fabric in a deeper way.

“Fabric also reminds me of my mother—she was always working on different sewing projects as I was growing up, and I have memories from my childhood of stacks of fabric in our house,” says Powers. “Fabric, to me, provides a sense of comfort and warmth. And the structure of the fabric is interesting to me; the individual threads come together to make the whole.”

During the pandemic, Powers would work on these paintings while watching the evening news and feeling inspired by the sacrifices by healthcare providers. When she and Susan Laney got together to discuss a show, Powers thought of a name for the exhibition.

In her research, she found the comfort theory by Katherine Kolcaba, first published in 1994. The theory is on how to best provide comfort for hospitalized patients, and it’s illustrated with a grid. The connection clicked for Powers, and the name stuck.

Powers creates her work by pouring oil onto the linen and using large brushes and rags to direct the paint.

“The process is very important to what I’m doing,” says Powers. “It’s not depicting anything, it’s just a painting, but the experience of that painting, to me, is more important than portraying an object.”

When viewed from the side, Powers’ paintings take on even more meaning: the edges have wildly different colors than the front of the piece. That experience alone requires the viewing of these works in person.

click to enlarge Laney Contemporary hosts outdoor reception, chance to safely see summer exhibitions in person
Work from "Clerestory."

Next up is “Clerestory,” an exhibition that Laney had planned for the future.

“With COVID, everything changed,” Laney says. “We had to rethink what we were going to present, and how to present it, and a number of challenges were hurdled. We were lucky enough to work with a group of really talented artists. It was a joy and it was also something that kept us busy in a time where maybe that was the best thing.”

The title of the exhibition is a reference to clerestory windows, which are windows at the highest level of a building. They allow light and color to come into the building and illuminate dark spaces, which felt like a necessary metaphor for the times we’re living in.

As such, “Clerestory” is an explosion of bright colors in the gallery space, almost like a joyous reunion.

Ben Tollefson presents five new works in the exhibition, continuing his exploration of gender binaries with objects like fake eyelashes and fingernails.

“I think of these anonymous figures as existing outside of those binaries,” says Tollefson. “I think a lot in my work about painting space versus physical space and the collapse of those two.”

Katherine Sandoz also contributed new works from her “Aurora” series. Her paintings are inspired by the idea of locus amoenus, a literary construct that deals with an idealized place.

click to enlarge Laney Contemporary hosts outdoor reception, chance to safely see summer exhibitions in person
Work by Namwon Choi n "Clerestory."

“For the Aurora series, I think I allowed myself to use more of a saturated palette, and maybe a bolder application of the paint,” says Sandoz.

Betsy Cain’s piece, “water, water,” is an imagined water symbol. Water is a universal symbol of the unconscious, and Cain’s piece is feminine in form and is related to the tides and water.

Cain also contributed work that’s a bit of a departure from her usual style, including oil paintings on yupo paper.

Namwon Choi pushes her boundaries with the work included in this show.

“I’ve been making monochromatic paintings about distance on shaped panels, and often I have this moment of, ‘What if I make this painting physically exist not only with height but with depth?” she asks. She answered that question with “Blue Distant (fifteen cubed),” an installation of gouache on four wooden boxes.

Abel Macias says of his work, “When I paint landscapes, they are not specific depictions of real life places. They’re more like dreams or memory. The perspectives and shapes are just fragments from my recollection of past travels and journeys. When I look onto nature, my eye quickly summarizes the plain into shapes, colors, and textures.”

And Hasani Sahlele says of his work, “When I work, feelings are at the forefront of my mind. These works are unique in the way they engage the viewer, as well as in their conception.”

The seven artists’ work in “Clerestory” creates a conversation with each other that needs to be seen in person, and your chance to do it (safely!) is this Thursday.


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