Across the Land and the Water

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Across the Land and the Water
August 17 – September 15, 2015

First Thursday Opening: September 3 from 6:00-8:00
Artist Talk at 5:30
Reception from 6:00-8:00

Experience Concord through the work of The Umbrella’s first artist-in-residence, Nina Earley.  From September 2014 through September 2015, Earley has been exploring Concord and its stories through her artwork.  An experienced traveler, Earley learns about each of her new environments by walking, mapping, and collecting.

Artist Statement:

The title of this exhibition comes from a W. G. Sebald book of poems. Having struggled through, and loved, several of his novels during graduate school, the book jumped out at me during my first visit to the Concord Book Shop. Many of the titles of individual pieces in this show come from the poems in this book.

As an artist who grew up on two continents, the importance of place is paramount in my work. This current series of revisited maps looks at my relationship with specific locations over time. Some spaces are in clear focus while others are disappearing behind new experiences and in shadows of paper folds. I have long been fascinated by memory, and an elusive fear of forgetting looms constantly overhead. Moving between blurred and focused image allows me to address the way I remember, while each map allows me to fight against forgetting the represented place. The use of craft materials in my work references my family history; my great-grandfather owned a weaving factory. Simultaneously, the wool and linen thread hints at my status as a female artist and the importance of my hand in my work. The maps are tangible and have a physical presence on the wall that is emphasized by the variety of materials.

The series of cyanotype canvas maps exist in between the black and white revisited maps and the Across the Land and the Water installation. Each sewn map line represents a walk I have taken during my year in Concord. Some I take every day, often with my dog, others were singular walks to explore a new path. I grew up in a culture that walks. To work, to school, to the grocery store, to the bakery, and to the playground, this was a constant in my early life that doesn’t exist in the same way in this country. By mapping, remembering, and giving importance to these every-day walks, these works begin to grow apart from the banality of each step taken. Allowing these maps to exist without reference to their true locations allows the interaction of color and thread to create new stories. 

While trying to understand this place and my position in it, I began making cyanotype prints on paper along my walks. The cyanotype process was invented around 1840, and I imagine that Henry David Thoreau might have been able to make prints in this way during his time at Walden Pond. I am interested in the energy created by the potential of this historical connection, and have made contact prints of objects found along my path, around Walden Pond, or on my daily walks in my new neighborhood. Some of these objects occur naturally, and others were left behind accidentally; all of them leave a mark on my paper of a specific location. Each of these prints is collected to form a large map of my year here in Concord.

Each of these series includes a grid element. The grid exists on every-day notepaper in Switzerland, and has followed me since my move away from that first home. As a foundation and starting point it surfaces in my materials and exists to ground, divide, and tie together both thematic and structural elements in my work.

My year as artist-in-residence has given me time to allow these separate but related projects to develop and evolve. While getting to know this new home I also was able to get to know many artists who have called Concord and The Umbrella their home for many years. Their stories inspired a collaborative project. I collected stories about walks around Walden Pond and the surrounding areas from local artists, writers, and students. Next I assigned quotes from these stories to a set of birch wood panels. Many of the authors elected to remain anonymous; therefore all quotes are assigned anonymously and out of context of the original story. This allows for new stories to emerge in connection with the following interpretations.

A group of artists, mostly resident artists at The Umbrella, then worked on the panels, keeping the quote in mind, and working with what already existed on the previous layer(s). Each panel has three layers, each created by a different artist. Through this project many new conversations began, some inspired by the quote or the work, and many others inspired by each artist’s experience of this project.