Inside Pioneer Square’s Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA), paintings, sculpture and multimedia works hang on the wall of the gallery and sit atop pedestals. Each is unique but fused together in an absorbing group exhibition titled “Motherland.” Through light-hearted, critical examination and deeply personal works, the show examines Motherhood, Mother Earth and immigration. Guest curator and juror Amanda Manitach sorted through artist submissions and chose work from more than 160 artists for the gallery and digital slideshow.
Hanging in the front window of CoCA is Melissa Koch’s “Tree of Life.” Sunlight peeks through the papercut work depicting a tall tree with an expansive network of roots, fish and flora. Koch created it in response to the summer 2015 Paradise fire in the Queets Rainforest of Olympic National Park. Koch describes her work as “artful activism” and uses the work as an instrument to address human impact on the environment.
Between Karen Hackenberg’s drawing of an empty Gatorade bottle on the beach and Dan Joslin’s lollipops with scorpions inside them, an enticing mirror is nestled. Tree limbs growing out of the frame beckon further examination of Sophia Moreau’s “Lies You Tell Yourself.” A small hand asks the viewer to come closer. Moreau said the sculpture is primarily about how you see yourself.
“This is more about the inner truths that we do not wish to see,” said Moreau. “When faced with the harsh reality we choose the delusion. The delusion is beguiling. The delusion doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it is comforting and compelling and it is safe.”
Moreau said the Manzanita branches she used are intended to create an interior space beyond the mirror where you could foreseeably go and be safe within your delusions. She also incorporated copper into the sculpture.
“It’s so beautiful. It has this rose tinge to it and it doesn’t reflect the way that gold does,” said Moreau. “It’s alluring but it’s incredibly toxic.”
Sandi Bransford’s “Swarm” depicts an azure-eyed bird goddess with dozens of small feathered creatures nesting on her head. On top of them is a found object that could be used as a bird cage and doubles as a golden crown. “Swarm” represents her personal anxieties, memories and unresolved conflicts.
Each bird is slightly different because she didn’t create them from a mold. Bransford initially began working with clay to help bring her paintings to life but she ended up loving it. The medium offers a minimalistic way to channel her artistic vision.
“[In] our world right now there’s so much technology, but me, for my work I go into my studio with bag of clay and basically my hands,” said Bransford. “Sometimes I feel just like a cavewoman or something… But that’s all I really need to create anything I want.”
Nearby, a stanza from Kamari Bright’s poem “Soul Food” is etched onto a silver butter dish. It reads “I got sanity in this succotash / Respect in these ribs / Freedom for a weary soul / In these collards & corn bread.” Bright said introspection has always inspired her to create.
Perhaps one of the most intense works in the show is Kalindi Kunis’ “Fertility.” It’s a wall sculpture intended to mimic the shape of a woman’s pregnant belly. Vials of saline solution mixed with hormones and plungers for hypodermic needles protrude from a surface covered with shards of mirror. Creating the sculpture in 2012 helped Kunis process an incredibly difficult time in her life. She and her then husband went through 12 unsuccessful rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Kunis began working on “Fertility” after miscarrying for the third time, four months into her pregnancy. Kunis said the loss was devastating. She channeled her emotions into art.
“It was very therapeutic for me and it created an opportunity for me to talk about it and cry about it a little bit. Because inevitably I would cry at the story of what it was about,” said Kunis. “It was very cathartic to sort of see people approach it with wonder and enthusiasm and then to hear my story and then to see that response deep into their heart.”
Kunis was encouraged by IVF success stories and unwavering encouragement from her doctors even though they warned her that there were no guarantees. In hindsight, Kunis said she would’ve limited the number of treatments and sought out other options sooner. Her ordeal speaks to the larger issues surrounding women and childbirth.
“We damn working mothers, we criticize women who choose not to have children. We are willing to put women we love through that kind of brutality,” said Kunis who has had other miscarriages apart from IVF treatments. “My body is not meant to bear children in its form here, in this life.”
According to Kunis, “Fertility” also represents the beauty of bringing life into the world. The sculpture is like the inflorescence of a dandelion. Getting rid of the weed is an uphill battle, as they are resilient.
“It’s kind of like women,” said Kunis. “They want to control us but we’re prolific. We’re productive, we’re fertile and we’re essential.”
WHEN: Runs until April 20
WHERE: CoCA, 113 3rd Ave. S., Seattle
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Read the full March 27 - April 2 issue.
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