Approximately 50 artists will have their work featured in this year’s Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution Open Members Exhibition.
The exhibit, which opens with a reception at 3 p.m. Monday, August 6, in Fowler-Kellogg Art Center, is organized by VACI Partners and gives all members of the Partners the opportunity to showcase their work. The pieces are selected by Judy Barie, the Susan and Jack Turben Director of Galleries.
“That’s based on the scale of their work, and the space that we have,” Barie said; everyone is guaranteed at least one piece in the show.
Susan Doran, an artist who works primarily with paper making and teaches classes at the School of Art, has tried out a different medium for her piece in the show — human hair.
Doran learned of a 19th-century Victorian tradition that involved using human hair to weave wreaths, and later discovered Leila’s Hair Museum. The Kansas City-area establishment is the country’s only museum of its kind.
The 600-plus hair wreaths at the museum inspired Doran to make her own, and a woman at the museum taught her how. “The Burritt Family Tree” will be featured in the Open Members Exhibition, and Doran has incorporated family and friends into the piece.
“(Family trees) are traditional in hair wreaths, but also my boys are both filmmakers, and we wrote a screenplay about a hair wreath,” Doran said. “This would be the prop that would be in the movie.”
Doran said she crafted the piece for the potential film because, as she put it, “you wouldn’t really understand” the concept of the piece if it didn’t take a similar shape like that of a family tree.
Persephone Hopper will have three oil paintings featured in the Open Members Exhibition. The New Yorkbased artist primarily crafts scenes of nature, figures and still lifes and has had her work featured in VACI galleries before.
Two of Hopper’s paintings depict nature in Central Park. One, “Central Park — Big Tree,” she said, was “just a really interesting, amazing tree. … It had these interesting branches and cool shapes.”
Hopper will also have an arranged still life featured.
“I have these onion leaves reaching up, and I have a branch reaching up,” Hopper said. “So it’s this upward movement.”
Judith Olson Gregory will have two pieces displayed in the Open Members Exhibition. Though only one of them is politically charged, and the other is “a nice decorative piece,” she said, both of them are primarily made of used teabags.
“I’ve been doing that kind of work for several years, and just enjoying the material,” Gregory said. “I love the transparency and the weightlessness of it.”
Gregory has shown her work at Chautauqua’s galleries numerous times, and she’s served as president of the Chautauqua Center for the Visual Arts — as VACI was formerly known — and on its board of directors.
Handmade paper and wire accompany the used teabags in “Ghost Leaves,” one of Gregory’s pieces in the Open Members Exhibition. She often works with ginkgo leaf shapes because she’s intrigued by the fact that they are symbols of longevity.
The other piece, “Concealed Carry,” is more political. Gregory likes to work with subjects such as women’s issues and religion, but tries, as she said, “not to hit (people) over the head” with them.
“Concealed Carry” is a thinly veiled reference to gun ownership — literally. Gregory used gauze and teabags to construct what resembles a veil, but if viewers look closer, they can see the pattern created by the teabags is one of small guns.
“What I like doing is having pieces that look innocent, fluffy, fun and pretty, then having people who take the time to look at them realize there is a deeper meaning there,” Gregory said.
The Open Members Exhibition will be open until Wednesday, Aug. 22.