By Marcy Stamper
The four curators of Confluence Gallery’s new exhibit, “XX XY,” posed provocative questions in their call for art: Does a single chromosome really make that much of a difference between the sexes? Is there more to the obvious physical differences between us, or are there deeper, more fundamental underlying characteristics forever inherent in our genders?
The invitation drew a wide response from local artists, as well as from those across the country. Curators Joanne Marracci, Nicole Ringgold, Matt Armbrust and VBlast ultimately selected works of art from 31 artists, many first-time exhibitors in the Methow Valley, including four from out of state. The exhibit opens Saturday (March 7).
“We just asked people to interpret those four letters,” said Marracci. They also asked each artist to display a pair of artworks, although they gave them no further directives.
Artists responded with work in many mediums, from painting and photography to fabric art and ceramics. Some created traditional portraits of women, while others are abstractions of natural forms. There are ruminations on long-standing marriage, a spoof of wildlife imagery, and paintings of birds and landscapes.
Not all subjects are outwardly about gender. Melissa Raye-Hovee of Twisp painted close-ups of an agave plant and a whale skull, finding intricate anatomical forms in the leaves and bone. Ellen Miffitt contributed two mixed-media pieces that combine geometry and various symbols to explore Zen concepts and love, empathy and devotion.
Jae Cremin used felting to comment on C-sections. Robin Nelson Wicks created sculptural assemblages using ceramics and bones.
Photographer Anna Ladd, from Philadelphia, is one of several artists who looks at representations of masculinity and their effect on both individuals and the culture at large. VBlast contributed two large steel sculptures that express his ideas about how men are drawn to play with tools, to fight and to bleed, but not to cry.
Brian Kooser, an artist from Ellensburg who works in ceramics and auto body paint, created oversized figures that are part of his effort “to capture an understanding of why and how individuals choose to differentiate themselves from others as well as how they strive to make connections,” he said in his artist’s statement.
Kooser was invited to exhibit several pieces, which are displayed in an area behind a scrim because some viewers might find the material sensitive. The special area “creates intimacy for experiencing that work,” said Salyna Gracie, Confluence Gallery’s executive director.
The curators said they wanted to display art that is interesting and that will be talked about. “We all felt united about what would work. The explicit nature of the show was intentional,” said Marracci.
In addition to “XX XY,” there is an exhibit of Jeffrey Winslow’s multi-media art in the Loovre, the gallery’s smaller exhibit space.
“The show honors the male and female and celebrates that we’re equal,” said Ringgold. “This is an honest exhibit about gender.”
“XX XY” runs from March 7 to April 11. There is an opening reception at the gallery on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m.