Why did you title the show Seepages?
The concept of “seepage” (an oozing or a passage of a substance from one place to another) is something I have been thinking about in regards to my work for at least 10 years. The word “seepage” can imply a system break down, as well as a flow that breaks up a clog. For this show, I was also thinking about “seepage” in terms of the way that urban, suburban, and natural realms connect and seep into each other in our current culture and time.
Four years ago, my family and I moved to a place outside of Philadelphia that was once a series of Quaker farmlands and untamed forest, but is now a spot where sprawling strip malls and neighborhoods of suburban ranches are adjacent to dwindling wooded areas filled with deer. Here, I often experience disparate overlapping objects: blue plastic sheeting covering an abandoned gas station sign adjacent to a once-pruned, now overgrown bush; a gigantic three hundred year old weeping birch tree at the end of a paved road encased by a eight foot high chain-link fence; plastic grocery bags caught on branches hanging above a backyard trampoline.
My friend, curator Sue Spaid, sent me this quote by Irit Rogroff when I was preparing the show: “By seepage, we mean the action of man currents of fluid material leaching on to a stable structure, entering and spreading through it by way of pores. Until it becomes a part of the structure, both in terms of its surface and at the same time continues to act on its core, to gradually to disaggregate its solidity.”
When I started to think about the show, I knew I wanted to have work that dealt with a similar theme of seepage in the urban/suburban/natural realms. I was also looking for pieces that would work together, yet would also strongly contrast with each other.
My idea for the layout for the show is to have one room in the gallery consisting of separate small pieces by each artist and the other room as a space where a group installation is created. For this installation, each artist or collaborative groups of artists made large, site-specific pieces with the theme of seepage in mind. The works overlap, and in some place physically connect with each other.
The concept of the show seems driven by conceptions of environment and place. Could you tell me about any specific places that are important to your work?
As stated earlier, my own current neighborhood is important to my work. Last year, I received a grant from the Independence Foundation in Philadelphia to make a series of temporary outdoor installations in my yard and on the exterior of my house as well at various locations in the city of Philadelphia. I see these installations as a way of marking space, as well as a way to get work outside into the public realm. For my husband, composer, Van Stiefel, the space of our neighborhood is significant as well. He created an eight-channel sound piece made up of field recordings taken around our yard over the past six months along with computer-processed sounds.
Growing up here in Atlanta, I was also influenced by Howard Finister’s Paradise Gardens, which I visited on several occasions in the 1980’s. I believe the other artists in the show are also influenced by specific places and environments—Tom Vance by suburban Japanese topiary gardens, John Otte by New Orleans and its recent devastations, Arden Bendler Browning by urban Philadelphia, Kate Stewart by Philadelphia too, as well as real and imaginary apocalyptic American landscapes and Ward Davenny by storms and smoke clouds in the plains and prairies of the Midwest. The BP Oil Spill occurred after many of us began our work for the show, but of course, as a major event of seepage, its influence definitely crept into the work.
Seepages, curated by Caroline Lathan-Stiefel and featuring work by Arden Bendler Browning, Van Stiefel, Thomas Vance, John Otte, Kate Stewart and Ward Davenny, opens this Fri., June 25 at Whitespace at 7 pm.
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