Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hoxie Gallery Welcomes Hera Artists

From the South County Independent





WESTERLY - Sometimes thinking out of the box means finding a new box. Hera Gallery in Wakefield is moving office space across town to Lily Pads Professional Center in October, and the building housing the gallery is scheduled for demolition soon afterward. So Hera's artists will be exploring creative new ways to showcase their work until a new gallery space opens up on the same property.

The timing of "Hera at the Hoxie," therefore, is fortuitous, giving patrons a chance to see new work by a dozen Hera artists in the upstairs gallery at Westerly Public Library. The exhibition, which was scheduled two years ago, will end Saturday.

Alexandra Broches, president of Hera Gallery, said the gallery signed a one-year lease for office space at Lily Pads on North Road in Peace Dale that begins on Oct. 1. "But we will still be in the gallery through October," she said. "Moving into the office gradually."

As part of the final act for Hera's current building, gallery director Islay Taylor said that Hera is planning to go out with a bang.

"We're thinking of it more as a celebration than a closing," she said. "We've been on Main Street for 34 years. This is an opportunity to try something completely different, and some of the members I've talked to are excited and looking forward to moving in some new directions."

The gallery's final exhibition will be called "Concrete Alchemy." It promises to be a memorable one.

"We're inviting member and outside artists to work on the building directly," Taylor said. "No holds barred. We want the artists to use the gallery building as a primary material. Ultimately, the show will culminate in the destruction of the building and all of the artwork."

Like the Navajo sand-painting notion of nothing permanent, everything transitory in life, the gallery's destruction is viewed as part of its metamorphosis. Broches said that the exhibition and its demolition would be documented in a variety of ways, including a catalog and a video. She also said that as members begin to re-imagine the gallery, and the practical implications and financial considerations of running it, Hera will look for new ways to showcase work.

"We'll see what we'll be able to do," she said. "We may be able to do more site-specific work, perhaps exhibit in an entirely different way, similar to the Providence Art Windows idea, maybe." Broches said the gallery would host an open house once the new office is set up, and it will be able to display some art on the walls and in the hallway.

"We'll have a couch and chair," she said. "We still want visitors."

Taylor said that the gallery's ability to adapt creatively "speaks to what Hera really represents." A Providence resident who grew up in South Kingstown, she has enjoyed the "north-south" cultural exchange between Providence and South County artists, which Hera has fostered in recent years.

"I think that's something we can continue to do more of," she said. "Maybe get some South County artists more exposure up in Providence, where there are a lot of galleries doing interesting things in contemporary art."

The Hoxie show will help increase the visibility of Hera artists. Like most of its exhibitions, the work overall is eclectic and intriguing. Among the highlights are a number of pieces by Claudia Flynn combining found objects and organic materials that fuse subversively domestic themes into the mix. A series of whimsical masks, created with acrylic paint on papier-mâché and cardboard by John Kotula from his "What the Devil?" series face each other in a ring in the center of Hoxie Gallery. (They are accompanied by shrine-like detritus, including Magic Fireworks glasses, a guitar pick, a cigar, poker chips, a playing card, bones, a Midas business card and the Energizer Bunny.) Scenes from "The Domestic Landscape Series," eight-color photo archival ink jet prints made from original film negative by Broches, offer a quirky take on the world we've made. (Two favorites: "Wolf, Tuscon, AZ," which shows a wolf in a forested landscape that looks wild - except for the information disc with the drawing of a wolf in the foreground, revealing it to be a zoo scene. And "Foamhenge, Virginia," shot from a distance that could make you believe you were looking at Salisbury Plain, England, if it weren't for the photo's title and the surveyors tape in the foreground.

Barbara Pagh's "Woodland Series," consisting of photolithographs on handmade paper, present intermingling blocks, printed in cool tones, showing organic patterns of roots and ferns. Troy West's mixed media and found art assemblages express political outrage about the legacy of the Bush administration. Jeannette Jacobs' quilts convey color and movement (especially "In Flight," a 94-by-71-inch piece that suggests dragonfly imagery in the design). Also showing work are Linda Denosky-Smart, Cynthia Farnell, Jill McLaughlin, Caroline Pyle, Roberta Richman and Myron Rubenstein.

"Hera at the Hoxie" runs through Saturday at Westerly Public Library, 44 Broad St., at the edge of Wilcox Park in downtown Westerly. Hours are today and tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, log on to www.westerlylibrary.org.

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