Jodi Colella couldn’t be busier. The reception for the Somerville-based artist’s current “Morphology” exhibition, which she shares with Kay Hartung, takes place this Saturday, June 8 from 5-7 p.m. at Fountain Street Fine Art in Framingham (there’s a subsequent artist talk on June 14 at 7:30 p.m.). She’s this summer’s artist-in-residence at Fruitlands Museum, where her solo show, “The Nobility of Things,” opens later this month. She’s also got work in DanforthArt’s “Community of Artists” exhibition, teaching and trying to figure out what to do with that huge ball of yarn which keeps growing in her home. Artscope caught up with Colella after she participated in the Seventh International Encaustics Conference in Provincetown.
IS THIS THE BUSIEST YOU’VE BEEN IN YOUR CAREER?
Oh yeah. I’ve had periods where I’ve been involved in multiple group shows and activities before, but currently I’m working on fewer by number but each is much more involved. I love ‘projects’ and these two current shows, teaching and jurying have provided me with so much to think about and work on. It’s been great.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR EACH OF YOUR EXHIBITIONS AND SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS?
I am obsessive with my lists and notes making sure to carry items from one day to the next and constantly reviewing. I will be in very big trouble if I ever lose my black notebook!
I SAW YOU WERE AT THE MASSACHUSETTS SHEEP AND WOOLCRAFT FESTIVAL IN CUMMINGTON OVER THE MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND. ARE YOU ALWAYS LOOKING FOR NEW MATERIALS OR WERE YOU JUST STOCKING UP?
Both. My work often launches from traditional technique so attending these fairs and being exposed to new and old approaches always gets my attention. And I find the best raw materials for my workshops from individuals. I especially am attracted to the natural plant dyers and all the natural organic hues they produce.
YOUR “MORPHOLOGY” EXHIBITION, WHICH YOU’R SHARING WITH KAY HURTANG, IS ON VIEW AT FOUNTAIN STREET FINE ART IN FRAMINGHAM THROUGH JUNE 23. TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE SHOW AND COLLABORATING WITH KAY …
Kay and I met at the show ‘Cellular Visions’ at the Groton Library in 2011. We were both invited to participate because our work fit within the theme of organic cellular growth. We had fun presenting together at the artist talk and just made a connection. Kay is a member of Fountain Street Fine Art and invited me to participate in a show with her there. It’s been a pleasure to have the chance to work with her again, and to be a part of the impressive Fountain Street Fine Art Community.
YOU’RE ALSO IN THE “A COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS” SHOW THAT’S AT THE DANFORTH MUSEUM THIS SUMMER; WHAT WORK OF YOURS IS IN THAT EXHIBITION?
‘Mesothelia’ will be participating in the ‘Communtiy of Artists’ show at Danforth Art this year. This piece is a collection of five large chunks of coal, each wrapped in nylon with organic-like holes cut into the fabric to create and abstract cellular pattern. The name is an anatomical reference to the lining that exists in the human body and encases all our organs. It is tissue thin, permeable and structural and serves as a metaphor for vulnerability.
YOU’VE GOT A SOLO EXHIBITION, “THE NOBILITY OF THINGS,” THAT OPENS ON JUNE 29 AT FRUITLANDS MUSEUM, WHERE YOU’RE IN THE MIDST OF BEING ITS ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE AND MOVED YOUR “HIVE: A COMMUNITY PROJECT” THERE FROM THE DANFORTH MUSEUM OF ART. SOME MIGHT CALL THAT A YEAR’S WORK ON ITS OWN …
CAN YOU BREAK DOWN WHAT YOU’RE DOING WITH EACH OF THOSE THINGS?
‘The Nobility of Things’ is a solo exhibition at the Main Art Gallery of Fruitlands Museum opening June 29 and up until August 18, 2013. In this new body of work, I explore the themes of Material Culture using personal experiences as inspiration for each of the installations. ‘Index’ consists of approximately 200 objects that are whimsically labeled and cataloged, providing the viewer with a platform to acknowledge charged meanings that have accumulated over years of everyday use. ‘Divestments’ is a nine-foot tower of clothing that address issues of loss and letting go. Several other pieces include a mammoth crochet using women’s clothing, bronzed statues of people’s ‘Stash’ and large prints of precious flea market possessions. There will also be an interactive component for the museum public to participate in throughout the summer
‘HIVE: a Community Project’ is a collaborative group project that explores the chemistry between people when they work together with hands busy and minds free. Aluminum screen chambers are stitched with steel wire and assembled into an organically growing matrix that is representative of the community effort and their time spent together.
The material is non-traditional but suggestive of fabric. The wiring technique is simple enough for anyone to be able to participate. The result is a sculpture that grows according to the participants’ contributions of chambers that are as individual and unique as they are.
This project in March 2012 with a group of people who met weekly at a gallery in SOWA Boston. Since then it has exhibited in several venues including Carney Gallery at Regis College, Danforth Art in Framingham and currently at the Fruitlands Museum until October 2013. Each installation is specific to the sight and grows over time. The hands of approximately 100 people have touched this project and we look forward to many more by the end of the Fruitlands Museum season in October and beyond. This will be a project in progress for many months/years to come.
THAT FOLLOWS SERVING A FELLOWSHIP AT THE VERMONT STUDIO CENTER. WHAT DID YOU DO THERE AND WHAT WAS THE FINAL RESULT?
My time at Vermont Studio Center was spent exploring, researching and defining the direction for the Fruitlands show ‘The Nobility of Things.’ I arrived there not really knowing where I was going but had an interest in the subject of Material Culture. I had recently discovered the book ‘Stuff’ by the anthropologist Daniel Miller where he quips, “Objects make us as much as we make objects.” Plus my mom had recently passed away and I was helping my father organize their home. Looking through her possessions, combined with the ideas of Daniel Miller, ignited something in me that I just had to delve into. It’s been a useful device to help me come to terms with many questions I have about family, my humanity and myself in general. The total immersion I was allowed at Vermont Studio Center combined with the interaction with the other visual artists, writers and visiting artists provided me with the focus necessary to create this exhibition. I left with clarity and purpose and have been working feverishly ever since to bring it all to fruition. I am very excited about this show and how it is coming together. Much has transpired since my time in Vermont but it was all possible as a result of being there.
SOMEHOW, YOU ALSO MANAGED TO FIND TIME TO JURY THE “HIGH ART” HIGH SCHOOL INSTALLATION EXHIBITION AT THE ATTLEBORO ARTS MUSEUM; WHAT’S IT LIKE TO SWITCH ROLES AND BE THE ONE DOING THE JUDGING?
It was incredibly inspiring to view artworks created by youth who totally put it all out there. These were heartfelt installations based on the theme of ‘Contrast’ and each of the eleven schools defined very individual interpretations. I was both honored and humbled by the task of having to judge. It was daunting to choose the best for each category because I was very aware of the fact that these awards were based on the opinion of a single person during a particular point in time and honestly, I felt they were all stellar. It reinforced for me how subjective it is to evaluate art. That said, it was really fun to be able to articulate concepts and processes that are interesting. I learned much from getting to know these young people.
YOU’RE GIVING WORKSHOPS ON “NEEDLEFELTED ORBS” AT THE ELIOT SCHOOL IN JAMAICA PLAIN ON JUNE 9 AND 16; HOW DOES TEACHING COMPARE TO CREATING, AND DO YOU LEARN SOMETHING FROM YOUR STUDENTS AS WELL?
Teaching fuels my creating. The process of organizing, outlining, demonstrating and articulating tends to force a new comprehension that may not happen if I wasn’t compelled to express it to another person or group of people in a workshop setting. Also, observing the connections that each student makes when learning is very special. I love the ‘Ah Huh’ moments that occur when they feel they’ve figured out a concept or technique. There are many ways to approach every process – my students constantly awe me with their innovation.
HOW’S THE BIG BALL YOU’VE GOT GOING AT YOUR HOUSE DOING, WHAT IS IT MADE OF AND WHAT DO YOU PLAN ON DOING WITH IT?
The ball, entitled ‘Yarns,’ is currently 24” wide and about 60 pounds. I hope to have it grow much larger before it is installed at Fruitlands for the show ‘The Nobility of Things.’ It is yarn from my mom’s attic that she has stashed away for decades. There are yarns from the 1970’s that boast ingredients like ‘100% Dupont Acrylic’ as well as mohair, alpaca, nylon, and virgin wool. All of these boxes of yarn are being consolidated into a single ball of yarn.
The physicality of creating this large object has become an unexpected feature. The literal act of winding around a center as if orbiting and the gravity of the dense layers has transformed the material from masses of forgotten skeins to a single celestial body.
My mom was a knitting teacher and the ball has travelled to one of her classes where former students and friends have had the opportunity to share some of their favorite stories. It is providing me with the opportunity to create an icon representing her life as a knitter as well as a symbol of consumerism and identity.
DOING ANYTHING ELSE THIS SUMMER?
As the Artist-in-Residence at Fruitlands Museum I will be working on outdoor sculptural installations on the expansive campus. I’m interested in public art and plan to use this opportunity to challenge the limits of fiber and other materials outdoors. I have many ideas brewing that intersect the subject of my show, Material Culture, and its applications to humanity and animal behaviors in general. I’m open to having company while working so please visit me if I’m installing on a day that you happen to be there!