Friday, July 30, 2010

Article in the Independent!

Here is an article that gives a review of two shows, "Money" and "Finding Objects: A Reappraisal", in yesterdays Independent!

"Review: Two art exhibitions reconsider a culture's concept of value

As changing economic circumstances force all Americans to reprioritize their lives, two local arts organizations are addressing the subject head-on, tackling the notion of prevailing cultural values in separately engaging exhibitions.

"Money," which closes at Hera Gallery in Wakefield tomorrow, is a multi-faceted consideration of currency - a word that means both a medium of exchange and prevalence. "Finding Objects: A Reappraisal," at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston through Aug. 16, is a compelling meditation on discovering meaning and worth in objects discarded or rejected.

Both shows touch upon various aspects of their theme, ranging from the satirical to the angry, the whimsical to the mythic, the contemplative to the transcendent.

Hera gives bang for the buck

WAKEFIELD - Not surprisingly, dollar bills play a highly symbolic role in "Money," as legal tender is often manipulated and defaced (but perhaps not devalued) in a range of artworks at Hera Gallery.

William Saylor's archival ink jet print "Time is Money" presents a National Geographic map of the United States plastered over with enlarged versions of $10 bills. Scrawled over the face of Alexander Hamilton are various phrases, such as "We've lost a lot of time"; "How do you spend your time?"; Is that worth your time?" In each of the dozen or so examples, an italicized word within the phrase emphasizes the association between money and value that is prevalent in capitalism.

Deanna Ooley deconstructs currency even further, integrating torn dollar bills into a couple of exquisitely realized works. Her "Money Brooch," made from sterling, pearl and U.S. currency, uses paper cash tightly wound in a floral pattern to create an object associated with decoration, costume, pretense, even flaunting. Coupled with her "Wall Street Buckle," a brass, copper and acrylic buckle attached to a belt showing stock exchange figures in decline, the work reinforces the idea that money is perpetually in fashion, something we choose to wear, something that consciously or unconsciously helps forge our identity.

Another Ooley piece, "Market After," is a small, shrine-like candle box made from walnut, brass, sterling and U.S. currency - all items, in their wood, metal and paper forms, considered valuable. The dollars are cut in floral patterns on the sides and in topographical or fluctuating stock-market line graph shapes separating spaces inside the box. The jagged dollars and a gold tree shape are given further resonance by the phrase "In God We Trust" clearly visible on one of the torn bills.

Equally impressive is Margot Rocklen's "Jettisoned," a monoprint/mixed-media work that deconstructs the dollar even further, presenting a vivid and colorful image of the bald eagle - America's symbol - clutching arrows in its talons, exploding through the scene, blowing apart the word "TRUST" and other bits of dollar symbols in the process. In this piece, Rocklen's version of George Washington's mug has a panicked expression, watching the fractured elements of the greenback - the eye in the pyramid, the number 1 - collapsing around him.

Rocklen's Japanese woodblock and mixed-media work "Shot Through: A Worrisome Thing" repeats many of the same symbols - worried George, angry eagle - in a design that demonstrates the theme's elasticity.

Guy Pearce's "Bank," made from copper, silver, mercury dimes and Mokume Gane, shows a deteriorated glove representing a hand, with stubbed fingers truncated at the knuckles, plugged with dimes. In "Decay," a row of four Connecticut quarters reveals the backside symbol of the Charter Oak in a state of entropy, each tree more damaged than the last, in a sly allusion to the environmental and moral decay that occurs when society values money above all.

Claudia Flynn's "Fiscal Assault," comprising an ice pick and U.S. currency, is a simple screed. The ice pick is jammed violently into the gallery wall, through the cheek of George Washington. A conscious act of desecration, Flynn's work has an added layer, whether intended or not, since Washington's mug on the $1 bill is the work of Saunderstown-born portrait artist Gilbert Stuart, whose most famous painting became the world's most familiar currency.

Artist Michael Yefko conveys indignation through a variety of mixed-media works. "The American Dream" presents a knocked-over trashcan with small houses spilling out and scattered like loose garbage. Encircling the rim on top of the can are the names of corporations implicated in America's financial meltdown. Two other works - "A Pox on the House of Finance and Greed" and "Trickle Down/Suck It Up" - offer variations on the same idea. The former presents a big house with little green houses attached like barnacles or parasites next to a giant martini glass with a large toothpicks skewering smaller versions of the green houses, presented as olives or cocktail garnishes for the affluent. In the latter, smaller versions of the martini glasses stand over coasters marked "AIG" and "Goldman Sachs" on a table representing housing grid plots.

Margi Weir's digital ink prints on rag paper, "Paper Tiger" and "Paper Tiger II," are gorgeous, visually arresting compositions that use contemporary and classic symbols to address the relationship between cultures and the objects they worship. In the second work, the tigers form a circle in the center of the paper, presented in pinwheel fashion around a bull's-eye represented by a copper penny. Above, Weir turns the familiar dollar bill phrase on its head, asking: "Who Can We Trust?"

Joan Klatil Creamer's "Mystery Newport Mansion" turns the gilded heritage of Newport's heyday into a meditation on the delicate and fragile nature of opulence. Her work combining eggshell, metal, clay, tissue, acrylic, Swarovski jewel and glass creates a scene of lavishness in miniature. It is presented as a museum piece, paralleling the fate of those former summer cottages on Newport's Bellevue Avenue, now surviving by the grace of tourists spending their vacation dollars to view the mansions' former glory.

One of the most disarming works in the show is the series of three small brown paper bags and U.S. currency by Eric Galandak. The three bags are presented stapled shut with hand-scrawled amounts on them: "$51.00," "$36.00" and "$23.00." Despite the simplicity of the concept, the work raises numerous questions: Does each bag actually contain the amount suggested by the title - or different amounts, or any cash at all, for that matter? Is the artist assigning a relative value to each work, even though they are exactly the same on the exterior, differentiated only by their placement on the pedestal? Would the $23 bag be worth more than the $51 bag if a patron paid more for it?

The mystery, reminding us of those often-disappointing surprise "grab-bags" in discount stores, is part of the work's appeal, forcing us to reconsider how and why objects of value are perceived that way.

Hera Gallery's "Money" ends tomorrow. Gallery hours are 1 to 5 p.m. For more information, call 789-1488 or log on to

Finding treasure in the forgotten

WEST KINGSTON - In "Finding Objects: A Reappraisal," the 13 artists whose work adorns the galleries at the Courthouse Center for the Arts subvert notions of wealth, consumerism and commodity by discovering value in the found, the forgotten, the discarded and the neglected. By re-using, recycling and reinventing found objects, these artists produce works of intrinsic meaning and value in ways that delight, shock and surprise.

Wood River Junction artist Ana Flores epitomizes the insightful nature of the show with a work titled "Oshun/Island Spirit," a figural vision in turquoise and blue featuring three primary components. The body is made from fabric that is designed to move with the wind; the face is a cracked mask in peaceful, contemplative repose; the crown emanating from the head is an organic, fan-shaped coral object. Collectively the pieces convey a mythic image, one that merges nature, womanhood and godhood in a simple and arresting scene.

Speaking more directly to the notion of cultural values, Maine artist Stephen Oliver's "Catching Hell," made from found objects and fishing tackle, presents a sort of terraced mobile, mingling the lures, rigs, bottles and detritus of fishing with the trash reeled up from the water and found on the coast. These include teabags and bottle caps from beer, soda and sports drink brands (one reads: "Be a little twisted.") An American flag pin, tiny plastic Christmas tree and a crushed Budweiser can are also among the shrine-like totems of our collective discard. The can of Bud is particularly apt, since anyone who spends anytime outdoors knows that while Budweiser likes to call itself the "King of Beers," it is also most definitely the "King of Dregs" found in the woods.

South Kingstown artist Jill McLaughlin's assemblage "Transplant" creates a small shrine in box form, combining vintage book, photographs, ephemera and found objects into a reflection on nature and memories. With elements that include a house, compass, a ruler and a map, the work emphasizes our navigation through experiences, places and memories to create keepsakes and fragments that allow us to feel a timeless and universal connection to the cosmos.

Two New Jersey artists complement one another with small-scale works. Charlee Swanson's whimsical little figure made from found objects titled "Give Me A Hug" is a wonderful counterpoint to the yearning expressed in Sherman Drexler's "Untitled" paint on stone, featuring the backside of a naked figure splayed across a stone expanse of blue and green. Fellow New Jersey-ite Anker West's colorful and amusing "Moisty Christmas," constructed from a skateboard, steel and tools, presents a skateboarding blue goose wearing a bright green scarf broadcasting the words, "He who saves will always have." New Yorker Lucy Hodgson's "Shingle Lens Reflex" reminds us that patience and artistry, which once defined the visual arts, has been sacrificed in the digital age. Her 8-foot-high tower from wood and shingle is a representation of a view camera that, because of its exaggerated size, has the quality of a temple relic.

South Kingstown artist Troy West's "Kiss of the Wasp" makes a kind of constructed folktale out of a paper wasp comb in combination with welded steel and discarded machinery - much of it rusted - and splintered wood gathered from his outdoor studio (which the artist refers to as the Museum of Ordinary Objects).

Other items on display primarily convey shock value. Steve Wood's "Street Purse" dangles from the ceiling, a black purse revealing a box of condoms, a necklace and four pennies. The object is presented almost completely intact from its discovery on a Providence street, although the Colorado artist uses wire to extend through holes in the pennies, as if extremities reaching out from the purse - an item universally known as a personal repository for valuables. Similarly the necklace and the purse straps are stretched into shapes suggestive of nooses or restraints, reflecting the quality of desperation that the artist may have sensed in his anonymous muse.

Wakefield artist Claudia Flynn's "Frock," using paint on fabric, mirror and wood, displays a little girl's flower dress once worn by the artist and made by her grandmother, hanging within a large wood frame. But the work as depicted is entirely a black mass. Only the texture of the dress in contrast with the wood frame distinguishes the two elements. The artist's willful destruction of the keepsake suggests the inevitability of loss - of childhood, of loved ones, of precious things, even of memories.

"Finding Objects: A Reappraisal" will run through Aug. 16 at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston. For more information, call 782-1018 or log on"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hera Gallery
Back On Main
An exhibition of Hera Gallery Members
August 7 – 21, 2010 Hera Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 7th, 6:00 – 8:00

Hera Gallery is pleased to present Back On Main, an exhibition featuring the artwork of the artists of Hera Gallery.

This show presents the work of Hera Gallery members, interns, and administrators. Participating in the show will be Alexandra Broches, Amanda Brown, Linda Denosky-Smart, Carl Dimitri, Cynthia Farnell, Claudia Fieo, Claudia Flynn, Jeannette Jacobs, John Kotula, Viera Levitt, Elizabeth Lind, Jill McLaughlin, Barbara Pagh, Becky Peabody, Roberta Richman, Myron Rubenstein, Chad Self, Islay Taylor and Troy West.

Back on Main features a diverse group of photographs, prints, sculptures, paintings, jewelry, mixed media, and textiles. The wide scope of work is reflective of Hera Gallery member’s diversity of media and interest. This exhibit also coincides with the organizations return to downtown Wakefield, and will surely be a festive occasion.

Viera Levitt, New York Apartment Series, digital photograph, 2009

Carl Dimitri, Perpetua, Acrylic, house paint, oil on panel, 2010

Alison Rice, Untitled, Lino-relief print, 2007

These programs are presented with partial support from The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, Hera Educational Foundation, and The Friends of Hera. Hera Gallery is free and open to the public and is accessible to persons with disabilities. Parking is available.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hera Gallery and Origami Poets!

Dear Artists, Poets and Community Members,

Hera Gallery and Origami Poets will be presenting a collaborative exhibition at Hera Gallery in Wakefield from March 12 through April 16, 2011.

The tentative title for this collaboration is:

Art Into Poetry = Poetry Into Art

We are hoping that you will be part of this exhibition from its inception.

We would like to invite you to a
Planning Meeting/Pot Luck Supper/Reading/Performance at

Hera Gallery on Saturday, August 14, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM.

Here is the agenda for the meeting:
7:00 - 7:30 Welcome, Introductions, Supper, Performance
7:30 - 8:15 Poetry Reading and viewing artists' images
8:15 - 9:00 Discussion of the exhibition in the Spring. How can we make this the best, most engaging show possible? How can we make it the most rewarding possible for participants as well as the audience?

If you would like to participate, here is what you should do:
  1. RSVP to John Kotula
  2. If you are an artist, send John 3 - 5 images of your work which he will put into a slide show to present at the meeting
  3. If you are a poet, bring 2 - 3 poems to the meeting that you would like to read
  4. Prepare a dish to share. There are no cooking facilities at the gallery. We will supply paper goods. Bring whatever you would like to drink. There will be a cooler and ice. (John is very fond of carrot cake.)
  5. Come ready to have fun, share your work, and plan the show in the spring.
Based on the discussion at the meeting, John will complete a final description of the show and circulate it to the group for comments. It is anticipated that by the early Fall there will be a Facebook event page inviting people to take part in the project and attend the exhibition.

Let John know if you have any questions or comments. If there is someone you would like to invite to the meeting, give John a call.

For more information on Origami Poets and Hera Gallery:

John Kotula
cell: (401) 644-5481

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Article in Narragansett Times!

There is a really nice article by Bret Warnke about Hera Gallery and the MONEY show in the July 8-9 weekend edition of the Narragansett Times! You can read it below if you don't have a copy. Congratulations to Susan Hayward, Margi Weir, and Jason Lee Taylor, whose images appear with the article. Remember, the Gallery is also open Saturday 10am - 4pm as well as Wednesday through Friday from 1-5pm.

"Hera Gallery returns to Main Street with 'Money'
WAKEFIELD- "Burn your money," read a leftist pamphlet from the wild summer of 1968. "Burn your houses and you will be free." Mainstream America would hear none of it. Economic radicalism of this sort vanished, or was marginalized while related movements against the subordination of women, supporting civil rights, and opposing the invasion of Vietnam survived into the 1970's. But the the grand 60's coalitions collapsed and money, which Shakespeare called "a visible God" and "the common whore of mankind," survived.

Hera Gallery (named for the formidable Greek goddess) opened in 1974, at a moment when America's socio-economic and political activism began to fade. The art gallery was a small, non-profit cooperative jointly owned and operated by twelve women. The new sisterhood was comprised of Southern Rhode Islanders who hoped to establish a gallery-"a cultural force" in the region- that would challenge a status quo in which women were prevented from showing their art.

Hera, a small honeycomb, sits between the two artistic hives of New York City and Boston. Consequently, the women who began the cooperative gallery desperately relied on the monthly dues of each member to keep Hera buzzing. The ironically named Roberta Richman, a founding member, wrote "We had plenty of reinforcement from each other and the community but money was scare." Only three such cooperative galleries still exist. While Hera's mission began with the question of "what it means to be a woman artist" it has since changed. Now, according to the Gallery Director, Islay Taylor, the newly re-opened gallery still holds its "feminist undercurrents" but smartly adapted itself, posing a different question for a different age: "What does i mean to be an artist in a community?'

Perhaps this new query and the gallery's new exhibit entitled "Money," derive from the historical moment Hera and its artists find themselves in; an age of global capitalism, fractured communities, constant movement, hyper-individualism, and endemic uncertainty. One Hera member I met told me money was "the hot topic in everybody's life today." Other loudly topical themes in Hera's recent past have included "American Democracy Under Siege" and "The Environment Under Siege."

Adoning the walls and gracing gallery stands are prints, paintings, sculptures, and sketches selected by Newport Art Museum's Nancy Whipple Grinnell, the show's guest curator. Each curios and interesting work in this thematic show critically looks at money. The exhibit is not large (Hera's building was a former laundromat) but the stronger works are layered in complexity. Taylor, as she showed me around said, "I look at money differently than before this show; now I see it more as fine art."

A good example of this is "We, If" a close-up photo of a paper bill by Susan Hayward which, at first, resembles the simple shapely contours of a Rudy Burckhardt photograph. On its face the work is a contrast between the acute slopes of the "We" and the rigid lettering of the "if" belo. Yet, the very history which brought Hera's into being- the progressive collectivist spirit- is locked within that curvaceous "We."

Beneath it, sitting beside liberty's fiery torch is that stumpy terrifying "if." Two letters identifying the possibility of a different world, a Just City. If anything, Harward shows us that there is more to notice on our cash than "In God We Trust."

Money is a sketch of a dollar bill by Jason Lee Taylor. It recalls the radical cartoons of William Gropper and the Social Realism of Jack Levine. Mr. Taylor's bill no longer has the face of a respected leader- a 'soverign' whose face historically legitmized printed currency. Instead, "Dow Jones"" personified in an Uncle Sam's hat is the bill's iconic face. He wears a gas mask protecting him from the stink of a rotten system he oversees.

Hera's new exhibit is an intriguing look at America's national obsession. The exhibit has few images of people, illustrating the de-personalizing effects of the almighty greenback. But several of its works speak loudly about life in a monied world. Martin Amis once wrote "Money, I think is uncontrollable. Even those of us who have i, we can't control it. Life gets poor-mouthed all the time, yet you seldom hear an unkind word about money." If ever there as a place for such a critique it was in this gallery. While small, Hera's holds within its walls so much history and hangs on its walls so much possibility.

If you go
Hera Gallery is at 327 Main St., in Wakefield. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday from 1-5 p.m. Visit"

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Finding Objects: A Reappraisal

Hera Gallery Artists Troy West, Claudia Flynn, and Jill McLaughlin have their work in this show, Finding Objects: A Reappraisal! The press release for the show is below.

Finding Objects: A Reappraisal

July 15 – August 16, 2010

Courthouse Center for the Arts

3481 Kingstown Road

West Kingston, RI 02892

Artists Reception: July 15, 5-7PM

image: Anker West


Many artists working today gather discarded goods as raw material for their art, challenging traditional aesthetic assumptions, and emphasizing the artistic concept. There has been an ever-growing involvement with using pre-existing real objects as the actual constituents of art, whether gleaned from land, sea or mass-produced refuse. This exhibition profiles thirteen artists who do just that. The artists represented here are unified by their common personal philosophies of re-use, recycle and reinvent. Commonplace objects and commodities become materials for their works of art.

Participating Artists:

Russell Daly (Rhode Island), Sherman Drexler (New Jersey), Anna Flores (Rhode Island), Claudia Flynn (Rhode Island), Lucy Hodgson (New York), Jill McLaughlin (Rhode Island), Dan Potter (Connecticut), Anker West (New Jersey), Troy West (Rhode Island) Steve Wood (Colorado), Rhonda Schumaker (Rhode Island), Charlee Swanson (New Jersey) and Stephen Oliver (Maine).

Gallery Hours:

Monday thru Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

For additional information:

Contact Visual Arts Director, Jocelyn Donaghue at

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Images from MONEY Opening

Here are some images from the recent opening of MONEY here at Hera Gallery. All images are courtesy of Viera Levitt.