By CINDY SHEARER, professor and program chair, MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts and MFA in Writing and Consciousness
Account, anecdote, backstory, chronicle, drama, fable, fantasy, history, lie, legend, narrative, myth, memoir, parable, plot, romance, saga, serial, tale, thriller, witness, yarn: all describe how artists convey stories.
But as you walk through "Telling Stories Through Art," the exhibit Tricia Grame and I have curated for the Diablo Valley College Art Gallery, a different (and more eclectic) set of words, such as symbol, cardboard, color, wax, white gloves, found objects, dress form, texture, whimsy, wire mesh, humor, paper bag, might come to mind. Here the artists push against how stories are generally told—and convey them through a wide range of forms—and distinct, evocative uses of visual materials.
The exhibit is definitely “mixed media," suggesting it takes many visual materials and multiple ways of using them to fully convey a story (a story well told must be evoked in layers?). Included—among many other mixed media works—are Laura Towne’s illustrated poem on paper, April Zachary’s hand-made book, Tanya Wilkinson’s mixed media sculpture and mixed media 3D collage, Marsha Balian’s found wooden bird and metal bird cage sculpture, Sarah’s Loomis found wood, bottles, paper and thread assembled into visual stories, Tricia Grame’s paintings with text, Jenelle’s Campion’s work on cardboard, Mira M. White soft pastels/acrylics on paper, and Wendy Robushi’s oils, wax and repetitively etched words on wood panels. Nanci Price Scoular’s installation uses sand and water and Plexiglas to tell a story from beginning to end, from start to moment of change.
The exhibit is also evidence that artists and viewers create story together. Tanya Wilkinson writes: “When a piece of art works for you, it draws you in, it evokes feeling; you become a part of the story of the piece.” Wendy Robushi speaks to the “story not yet told”—art as a vehicle for unconscious story to become conscious. Several artists, such as Michelle Champlin, Mira M. White, and Tricia Grame, draw on symbols as a metaphor for story or as a way to share the influences that others’ stories have on them. Juan-Carlos Gonzalez and Aaron Rose collaborate—using the buffalo as catalyst for his painting and her handmade book.
Others access story through exploration of their inner lives or personal narratives. They use questions, inquiry, and memory to discover new layers of personal history and more questions, wonder, wounding, and/or connection to something larger than themselves or a “whole." Melanie Tormos’ "American Fall 2011" makes use of texture (paper), color (acrylics), words, and symbol (tree) to suggest our stories have personal and cultural layers all of which we can see if we commit to excavating the context for as well as the experience within them.
Others playfully tell stories again—fairy tales in the work of Tanya Wilkinson and Jenelle Campion, “large-format short stories” through vintage comic-book newsprint and Japanese ukiyo-e prints in Tony Michael Vecchio’s collages, and my visual portraits, which allow me to render the past but tell a new story today.
The MFA In Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts and the MFA in Writing and Consciousness at CIIS are sponsoring this exhibit, and it includes faculty, alumni, students, and community artists. Our thanks to Arthur Scott King, director of the DVC Art Gallery and the DVC Art Department, for the chance to place this exhibit.
"Telling Stories Through Art" runs Jan. 19-Feb. 21, 2012, at Diablo Valley College Art Gallery, 321 Golf Club Road, Room A305, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. Visit the DVC website for directions and/or information.