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Tactile Journeys: Young Blood at MAP and Spark at The Peale

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If you are curious about the future of the contemporary art world in Baltimore, our regional MFA programs are your starting point. Varied and diverse, these programs are brimming with talented new art world contenders, forming a vast network of students, faculty, and alumni.

Two exhibitions currently on view in Baltimore highlight the depth and breadth of these academic communities: Spark: New Light at The Peale and Young Blood at Maryland Art Place.

 

Young Blood at Maryland Art Place (MAP)
Danielle Hawk

Young Blood at Maryland Art Place

The 13th annual Young Blood exhibition offers a stimulating array of new works by recent MFA graduates from the Baltimore area, including the Maryland Institute College of Art, Towson University, and the University of Maryland College Park. From metal assemblage to digital animation projection to spore-print drawings, the artists display a wide range of craft and conceptual interests. Meditations on being, reflections on the precarious state of the world, and rumination within nature seem to be common guiding principles for the artists.

Danielle Hawk’s “Disassembled Vessels” ceramic sculptures are non-figurative yet are reminiscent of the body and self: always changing, always in construction, and beautifully imperfect. Presented in pairs, the forms are conglomerations of each other: partially wheel-thrown and partially hand-built, raising questions about the experiences that shape us.

Candice EH Cramer’s sculpture and drawing also have disparate elements, such as ashwood logs with mushrooms, milled lumber, spore prints, and ink that come together to form a bigger, whole network. Her large ink drawing “You Can’t Kill Me In a Way That Matters” is composed of mushroom spore prints and fluid lines that spread out from the center into four paths or arms on black paper, like the mycelial network which it visually alludes to. The title and the form suggest a deeper web that isn’t always visible and cannot be destroyed simply, as multiple nodes will continue to persist.

 

Candice EH Cramer
Geoffrey Krist

Recently, researchers have celebrated the mycelial network as the internet of the natural world in the way that it enhances connection and communication among trees, and Anna Reed’s exploration of tactility in a digital realm feels related to this encompassing network that seeps more and more into our physical reality. Reed captures sensory organs in up-close photographs that are then digitally manipulated and layered with bands of color, which appear as a desensitizing veil. “Centered in the Margins,” an oxymoron, initially reminded me of genetic tests with the patterns of bands that fragmented DNA form, but also alludes to the internet’s paradoxical quality of connecting individuals to everyone else (with an internet connection) yet simultaneously having a divisive quality.

Bao Hu’s sound-and-video installation also has a disjointed quality since it uses natural sounds (an orchestra of crickets, a solitary dog barking, fire crackling, and lapping ocean waves), however, the images that they are combined with are simplified circles of colors and light. Hu’s installation, “Placefulness,” provides a moment of respite and transports me out of the gallery to Fenwick Island’s shore bathed in moonlight and the melody of waves.

 

Jennifer Yablonsky
Bao Hu
Young Blood at MAP, works by Martin Gonzalez

Geoffrey Krist’s “Church Centipede (Ecclesia Scolopendra),” a 3D-printed sculpture from PLA with oxidizing paint, feels like bent reality. Architectural elements of a church morph into the form of a Scolopendra, a genus of large tropical centipedes that are carnivores and venomous. The creature feels like a monster out of a dream enveloping its inhabitants.

A similar surreal yet more serene and peaceful quality characterizes Penn Eastburn’s acrylic paintings. Figures and landscapes are paired with geometric, patterned bursts of color, reminiscent of a quilt. In “Ponderer” there is a quiet solitude as a solitary nude figure stares off into a somewhat abstracted geometric landscape of portal-like windows. The black and white pasted-on photograph of the man is a specter in the imagined landscape.

Martin Gonzales’s animal helmet sculptures are raw and rough, and they possess a mythical quality. “Deer (Helmet)” is fabricated just from steel bars, yet it functions as a vivid linear model of an animal skull. Historically, masks have been used as ritualistic objects with transcendental properties, but Gonzales’s objects are labeled as helmets and are large enough to be worn, which implies a protective gear of sorts, especially suspended at the height of a head.

In contrast to these heavy industrial sculptures, Jennifer Yablonsky’s photographs appear like fleeting moments. The intimate black and white photographs were taken with a pinhole camera and printed onto Harman Direct Positive fiber paper, making them one of a kind. They offer snapshots of natural elements where the artist had serene meditative moments and offer us small treasures of nostalgia.

The works in Young Blood are distinct, yet they ground us in observing and contemplating the work itself and the moment, or they transport us outdoors into speculative worlds and landscapes. Young Blood reflects the quantity, quality, depth, and diversity that regional MFA programs offer. I look forward to watching each artist grow and their careers unfold.

Young Blood is on view at Maryland Art Place through September 3, 2022.

 

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Spark: New Light at The Peale with works by J. Yablonsky, Jenee Mateer, and iChris Peregoy's time capsule photos.
Spark: New Light at The Peale with work by Foster Reynolds-Santiago in foreground

Spark: New Light at The Peale Museum

The passage of time, accelerating effects of climate change, and the production of knowledge and identity are vividly explored in Spark: New Light, the thrilling fifth-annual group exhibition of UMBC and Towson University students, faculty, and alumni at the recently reopened Peale Museum. Curated by Catherine Borg, the curatorial statement reveals: “like Rembrandt Peale who was both an artist and innovator, the artists featured in [the show] are multi-faceted thinkers who ask us to look closely and think deeply about our world.”

While the works range in medium, they all encompass a certain tactility and appetite for exploration and research. Questioning the production of knowledge feels especially important for Alexandra Garove and Diane Kuthy, who explore history, classification, and museology through “Illuminated Histories,” an array of cutouts and photographs arranged on a light table and insect and flower collages. The images and objects on the table are accompanied by interactive cards that give further explanation, ask specific questions of the viewer, and sometimes even include stop-motion animations (accessible through a QR code). Some of the cards speak to the history of the Peale specifically, like annotation #1 asking, “Why do you think Titian Peale used tinfoil on the sides of the box?” Others look at larger social contexts for botany and the preservation of objects and knowledge.

 

Sookkyung Park installation
Foster Reynolds-Santiago's "Transgender Euphoria: Puerto Rico's Queer Exaltation"
Irene Chan

Irene Chan’s exploration of a Chinese Civil War soldier through archival photographs, embroidered jacket, and cutouts also dissects history and represents it to question history and race, and to specifically acknowledge the role of a man has come to be known simply as “Thomas” (also known as Thomas Sylvanus, Ching Lee, Ye Way Lee, and Ah Yee Way). He was brought to the United States from China and enslaved in Baltimore, but after running away he joined the Union Army and fought in the Civil War, sacrificing his own safety for a country that met him with little more than hate. Chan’s work centers an opportunity to atone for the injustices of the past, a necessary part of understanding current social and political contexts in the hopes of building a more equitable future.

Natural transformation and landscapes become a place of metamorphosis, emergence, and rapture. Lynn Tomlinson’s somber stop-motion animation and ballad explores a changing climate and the effects of sea-level rise on a home in the Chesapeake. Created with clay on glass, it is vivid, fluid, and painterly like water. The environmental backdrop to the human experience is a crucial one as we affect and are affected by our ecosystem.

Foster Reynolds-Santiago explores a spiritual connection between Puerto Rico’s natural landscape and transgender inhabitants in “Transgender Euphoria: Puerto Rico’s Queer Exaltation.” The multi-sensory installation includes hanging knitted fabrics resembling the Flamboyán tree, a desk and chairs with abstracted images reminiscent of the fruit of the tree, a figure with scars on their chest as an allusion to gender-affirming surgery, and a stop-motion animation projection, layered with a multi-generational conversation with a melody of crickets and frogs.

Other works also lean into the metamorphosis of natural elements, such as Timothy Nohe’s “Uncultivated: Flowering Bodies,” a collection of digital images produced using an artificial intelligence program. These renderings present hybrid creatures that are a result of cross-pollination between different entities, such as mushrooms, flowers, insects, a heart, and flesh. Such transformations are exciting speculations for a time where we need to rethink humanity’s role and home in nature.

The exploration of ephemerality and change is present in Chris Peregoy’s work: delicate pinhole camera images called “Time Capsules.” The images in circular frames appear to be snapshots through peepholes and windows that transport viewers to simple yet beautiful scenes of a backyard, a porch, or a bedroom. Kat Navarro’s tufted soft-sculpture installation and animation projection transport me to a memory of Lake Laurel in Massachusetts where I walked on a luscious carpet of sphagnum moss. Navarro’s installation ponders childhood memories of playing outdoors fueled by curiosity and exploration.

 

Adam Droneburg
Wall sculpture by Kathy Marmor and Penny Rheinigans, "Beyond Midlife: Unspooling" with installation by Sookkyung Park
Danielle Hawk

Changing and blooming over one’s life and within the self is celebrated and acknowledged in Kathy Marmor’s and Penny Rheingans’ “Beyond Midlife: Unspooling,” a collection of four large wall-hanging fiber sculptures that combine hair, lace, foam, and wood, with woven and stitched elements and spools of yarn that are in one instance suspended as plum bobs and in another reminiscent of breasts. The instsallation feels tumultuous, urgent, and at times unraveling as one’s body changes. Materials that are traditionally considered domestic and feminine are used as a visceral exploration of the endurance of the female body in the face of time.

With so much of the show connected by textures, I turn to Fahmida Hossain’s videos:  “I Am A Firefly” and “Touch.” The former is a video with a muffled ethereal soundscape accompanied by gradually blooming abstracted imagery of luscious pinks, blues, and yellows; the latter is a black and white video collage of hands touching their surroundings with calm ambient sounds of everyday life. Her exploration of tactile sensation—and also the lack thereof, and the brain’s processing of this information—reflects a curiosity through which we can come to understand our world.

This show continues to amaze, surprise, and untangle. These inventive artists illuminate Baltimore’s and the Peale’s history, speculate our futures, imagine productive cross-contaminations with non-human beings, and celebrate the tactility and joy of everyday life.

Spark: New Light is on view at The Peale Museum through September 25, 2022 and features 23 Towson University and UMBC faculty, student, and recent alumni artists and their collaborators: Mark Burchick, Lynn Cazabon, Irene Chan, Grace Doyle, Adam Droneburg, Carrie Fucile, Alexandra Garove, Danielle Hawk, Fahmida Hossain, Ahlam Khamis, Jinyoung Koh, Diane Kuthy, Jenee Mateer, Kathy Marmor (with Penny Rheingans), Lisa Moren (with Tsvetan Bachvaroff, Dan Deacon, and Woody Lissauer), Kat Navarro, Timothy Nohe, Sookkyung Park, Corrie Francis Parks, Chris Peregoy, Foster Reynolds-Santiago, Lynn Tomlinson, and J. Yablonsky.

 

MAP photos courtesy of the gallery and Caitlin Gill; Peale photos by Catherine Borg courtesy of Spark

Kat Navarro (Bug Box) in Spark: A New Light at The Peale

Header Image: Danielle Hawk, Chris Peregoy, and Sookyung Park

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