Art as a Coping Mechanism — the Collective Wisdom of the Creatives Exchange
The organization of formidable women artists shows how art can help us deal with and interpret current events.
By STEPHANIE POWERS | August 22, 2018
Though the Creatives Exchange’s last show, Seeing Now, recently came to a close after a month at the HCC Ybor City Campus Art Gallery, their vision is lasting.
The group made up of professionals active in dance, sculpture, writing, photography, filmmaking, visual arts, woodworking and more sought to present a juried selection of works that share a contemporary woman’s perspective.
Many of the women in Creatives Exchange work in the arts while others have day jobs, but they create art as a way to deal with some of the current negative climates, political and otherwise.
“It protects me from the news,” Candace Knapp said regarding her paintings at a packed artist talk presented this summer at the HCC-Ybor Gallery.
Knapp started painting beautiful water naturescapes as a change from her former life as a sculptor, and some of her works are displayed in the children’s section of St. Petersburg’s Main Library. On her website, she says she loves the way colors and shapes can create a whole new “world “with glittery lights and infinite depths.”
Other speakers at the talk included the humorous multimedia artist Melissa Fair, photographer Suzanne Williamson and juror Catherine Bergman, curator of exhibitions for the Dunedin Fine Art Center.
At the time of the event, the room was filled with women and the mood was strong and hopeful. In addition to the speakers, other artists included in the show were Paula Brett, Jenny Carey, Suzanne Camp Crosby, Kimberli Cummings, Eileen Goldenberg, Brenda Gregory, Cynthia Hennessy, Victoria Jorgensen, Kim Radatz, Debra Radke and Rose Rosen-all with a style of their own.
A site-specific installation, edited for the exhibition by Victoria Jorgensen, gave the viewer a voice in the #metoo movement. Goldenberg’s iconic, Greco-like sculpture of a female torso adorned in homage to women’s rights was a personal eye-catcher.
“So This is “Resist and Resist Again” ceramic, which has been decorated using the Sgraffito technique,” Goldenberg explained, “which is a way of decorating pottery produced by applying layers of color or colors (underglazes or colored slips) to leather hard pottery and then scratching off parts of the layer(s) to create contrasting images, patterns and texture and reveal the clay color underneath. There are some added embellishments such as the chain. The piece was fired three times. The familiar image of Rosie the Riveter wearing the Woman’s March Hat is just one of many images and slogans appearing on it. ‘Nevertheless she persisted,’ woman’s figures and symbols of womanhood and empowerment are some others. The torso is cut into three pieces and then stitched back together to symbolize our resilience.”
Goldenberg adds that creating this was important to her, inspired by having attended the March in Washington with her daughter. She said she was determined to speak against the sexism, opposition to reproductive freedom and degradation of women shown by members of our current administration.
“The show represented something important to us as individual artists and as a collective group coming together to make plans and share art ideas and outings,” Williamson said. “Making art is important and we artists process the personal, political and cultural events we are exposed to.”
The accomplished photographer explained that over the past year, since Creative Exchange’s last HCC show, 13th on the 13th, in July 2017, dealing with current events has been especially challenging for many of the members, an observation noted on many of the artist statements. Each of the works in Seeing Now reflected an emphasis on the state of the members’ artistic minds amid today’s challenging times.
Subjects ranged from the exploration of family relationships and their emotional components to contemporary political issues, social landscapes and light in relationship to environment, along with the artists’ responses to life in the present moment.
“Some of us were thinking about family and our worlds, and we were processing what was happening in culture and politics,” Williamson said. She and others mentioned that support from cohorts in the Exchange helps them to create and thrive as they forge ahead on new projects.