By CINDY SHEARER, faculty member and program director of the Department of Writing, Consciousness and Creative Inquiry
We hope you’ll join us on Sept. 10 for Offerings: Works of Text and Image, a special interdisciplinary arts event that includes performances by poet Judy Grahn and musician Anne Carol Mitchell, storyteller Jovelyn Richards, poet and playwright Genny Lim, and Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers. The opening event is from 4:15-7:30 pm at Village Theatre Art Gallery, 233 Front Street in Danville.
I was curious about what we offer—the thing offered through art—and the act of offering—the choices reflected in art, the connections we seek and relationships we establish through the process of art-making—so I proposed an exhibit, which the town of Danville accepted, around conscious exploration of that curiosity. The exhibit begins Sept. 10 and runs through Oct. 29.
The word offering has origins in Old English, offrian, meaning to present in worship—but it also arises from the Latin offerre, meaning to bring or bear. This means the lineage of offering resides not just in a spiritual act of giving something—but also in how we bring ourselves to or bear with process. Just as a tree bears fruit or a woman brings a child to birth, art as offering allows us to produce and then bring forward our creations into the world. Through art, we get the chance as artists to give, give back, and honor—literally and aesthetically; we make an offering. In this exhibit artists show through works of text and image, abstract painting, artist books, mixed media, comics, photography, sculpture—and handmade postcards—how art asks us to contribute and sacrifice.
I’ve included twelve artists—the work is personal and cultural. We describe art as offering in the following ways—devotion to God, an honoring of an ancestor or someone who has inspired us, a gift or sacrifice to spirit, a way of engaging in reflection or of being open to self revelation, and using art as a way to communicate or connect with something or someone. Several artists use the language of “portal”—art as an opening, a new way into something or to insight. Others talk about offering themselves to the work, while attending to what is offered by or through the work. Some look to create and be with a kind of “unease," while for others, the offering is a chance to seek unity and engage a deep voice within.
But what stands out for me most are the cultural perspectives offered here. Salma Aratsu talks about joining Eastern thinking with Western painting, while Orlonda Uffre engages the divine voice within her while also evoking her Caribbean lineage and educating us through her work. Tim Stapleton shows us the culture of Appalachia he creates in devotion to his Aunt Patsy. Nanci Price Scoular’s offering represents a cultural dis-ease—that of a white South African now living somewhat uncertainly in American culture. The creating of persons and moments of time in much of this work also allow for places and spirits to materialize. There are also the forms used to represent cultures—Jenelle Campion’s text and image map of rivers, Tricia’s Grame use of poetry by cultural icons Judy Grahn and Anne Sexton in her paintings, Sarah Loomis’ linking of personal and environmental wounding within her assembled works, Franceska Alexander’s American popular culture references, Aaron Rose’s construction of ceremony and a literal offering as art, and April Zachary-Serr’s story of the real and supra-real in a handmade book. Jessa Brie Berkner and I evoke the whimsical—she through her comics and I through play with text and object—and the serious through homage to our family members and their histories.
This juried and invitational exhibit is an offering of artists associated with the MFA programs at CIIS. It also includes a special collection of postcards made by our MFA students and invited guests. I think of the postcard as the perfect form of art as offering. Each allows for conscious relationship—a thoughtful conversation—between text and image—and demands a stamp. Thus, every work includes something original.
I am very grateful to Amy Miller, arts coordinator for the town of Danville, and to the town of Danville for supporting this exhibit.