27th Annual Positive Negative National Juried Art Exhibition 2012
Theme: Material Transformation
Juror: Dr. Gail Levin
February 20 to March 2, 2012 at the Slocumb Galleries
Juror’s Lecture on “Lee Krasner: A Biography”:
February 24, Friday, 5 p.m., Ball Hall Auditorium
Awarding reception and *book signing follows at the Slocumb Galleries
“In nature nothing exists alone” ― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962
In twenty-first century America, it too often seems to me as if we just import what we need or want rather than manufacture things of our own in our own factories. The age of craft seems to be in the past, yet I am fascinated by art that still requires craft to exist. I do not mean craft that some artist commissions from someone working somewhere else. I hoped to see artists acting simultaneously as both designers and makers. I wanted to see their craft’s presence in their work.
This year’s Positive/Negative focuses on art works that explore the concept of “Material Transformation” in various forms. In choosing the works for this show, I wanted to focus on the inherent symbolic value of artists’ materials. I was especially attracted to non-traditional materials used in new ways. I love it when the material of an art work takes on a life of its own. Making something new out of something once devalued offers possibilities and creates potential. Thus, I hoped to take a look at art made from recycled trash, left-overs, junk, and inadvertent detritus. I am in awe of artists’ exceptional ability to transform waste materials into art, which benefits society by making something of value out of something once discarded. This is a worthy theme for the present economy that really makes sense. It’s also a “green” idea to take things destined for landfills and direct them to museums. It contributes to cleaning up the environment.
For me, this theme resonates with historical precedent: Lee Krasner once made collages out of her own and Jackson Pollock’s discarded pictures. Earlier in the 20th century, Picasso made collages and sculptures out of detritus; Kurt Schwitter used trash for his Merz collages and Merzbau. Later Louise Nevelson made monumental sculpture out of discarded wood. More recently Chakia Booker has made use of old tires and El Anatsui turned old whiskey bottle caps into magical tapestry-like works.
At the same time, I also wondered whether traditional representational painters and photographers would have anything to say about rubbish, dumps, pollution, and the way our culture is a throw-away society and I was pleased to see among the submissions that some artists that had been thinking about just such issues. Their powers of observation make poignant this theme, palpable in the materials used by some of the others in the show.
While I considered the originality of vision and the quality of individual art works, I also had in mind choosing an exhibition that might cohere in its theme. It is my hope that these diverse art works speak to each other, creating a voice that is greater than the expected sum of its discrete parts.
Gail Levin, Distinguished Professor
The City University of New York
*The book signing event is for the benefit of the Dr. Karen Cajka Memorial Scholarship
Sponsored by the ETSU Department of Art & Design, Department of Literature and Languages, Women's Studies program (WSP) and the Student Government Association (SGA) BUC Fund