Last Thursday evening, Ghost Gallery located in the Capitol Hill area of Seattle, Washington opened Bell Jar: A Group Exhibit, its first exhibition in a series dedicated to self-identifying women artists. Twenty-four local and national female artists were invited by independent curator and gallery owner Laurie Kearney to create their visions of a self-contained environment underneath or contained within a glass bell jar via mixed media.
Kearney’s curatorial statement is so powerful and spot-on, that I dare not deviate with my own descriptions of this exhibit’s thematic purpose: “BELL JAR features 24 local & national artists working with the ever-iconic cloche vessel. Mixed media work will be encapsulated in these seemingly fragile yet protective environments, portraying varying levels of sentimentality, experimentation and personal narratives. Viewers will be able to interpret for themselves the meaning of these miniature worlds, organic forms, conceptual objects and occasionally suffocating compositions, presented by a diverse group of women from across the country.”
Much like Victorian-era women wore a matching set of two jewelry pieces known as a “demi-parure” – my Widget Landscape Bell Jar acts as a framing device of mixed-media. This includes landscape images that I capture digitally, output in color onto archival paper then set behind polished Plexiglas. The jewelry pieces that hold the 2-D images are hand-fabricated through chasing and repoussé metal, using primarily oxidized sterling silver, with a handmade 18-inch brass chain and clasp. The landscape which becomes the focal point of this work was captured in my travels of a late summer sunset over a marina, just before a violent storm. Using this imagery underneath the nearly-suffocating container space of the glass bell jar allows the viewer to twice-experience this digital landscape: first, as three contained pictures within blackened-silver conical bezels; secondly, as an overall vintage glass environment, set back-in-time.
Seattle artist Nola Avienne’s Sea Building is one of four pieces by the artist on exhibit. Both this and Avienne’s Sea Formal utilize whip coral and black coral, lending an aquatic and sea-themed experience. However, obviously removed from the maritime environment, Avienne carefully sews Sea Building‘s see-through acrylic environ together with silk thread and magnets. The vibrantly pink hues of the sea urchins create a stunning contrast to the stark black of the black coral. The distressed acrylic dome seems to beckon the viewer to think possibly that the tapering black coral as it rises up to the very top of this dome is an inanimate object’s “plea” to not be slowed from new growth, or not be forced to remain in this sheltered, stifling bell jar environment.
As curator Laurie Kearney explains on the Ghost Gallery website: “This exhibit is not based on the book by Sylvia Plath “The Bell Jar,” rather it is an aesthetic exploration by these artists of the bell jar as a unique vessel to house visual art.” In addition, the gallery has set up a temporary link for online viewing of the artwork. I encourage viewers to visit this link to this exhibit, where nearly all of the Bell Jar pieces on display can be viewed and purchased through April 2nd, 2015.
Bell Jar: A Group Exhibit can be seen in-person at Ghost Gallery, located at 504 E Denny Way (entrance faces Olive Way) in Seattle, WA through Thursday, April 2nd, 2015.
Images used are courtesy of the artists and Ghost Gallery, Seattle.