Mother/Daughter Mandle in Newport
by Suzanne Volmer
“Of Water and Bone,” a mother and daughter exhibit created collaboratively by Gayle Wells Mandle and Julia Barnes Mandle, presents itself as a conceptual umbrella and makes a cohesive statement that communicates a composite view of the artists’ individual and shared perspectives based upon their experiences. The artists’ aesthetics have gravitational pull toward process charged with cultural awareness and investigatory layering of content worth contemplating, especially in an election year. Gayle explores global issues of water sustainability and Julia examines the topic of immigration. The exhibition is on view at the Newport Art Museum through August 9.
Both artists are mindful of the discrimination that women face seeking opportunities, so in showing collaboratively they prefer using the gender neutrality of their middle names: Wells+Barnes. The approach avoids any diminished importance potentially leveled against a mother and daughter pairing, and allows the artists to lift audience attention into the seriousness of their subject matter.
Gayle and Julia are well-traveled, and creative involvement in the arts extends through their family tree. Gayle’s mother was an artist. Leading arts administrator Roger Mandle is Gayle’s husband and Julia’s father. His years of professional stewardship includes work at The National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and serving as president of Rhode Island School of Design. Roger and Gayle lived in Qatar for four years while he developed a museum strategy for that country. Wherever they have lived, Gayle has had a studio—currently it’s in South Dartmouth, Mass. where Gayle and Roger now reside.
Julia worked for 15 years as a performance artist in New York City, where she made a significant body of work after receiving arts degrees from Williams College and New York University. She emigrated to Holland in 2011, partly because her husband is Dutch; he worked as a cultural attaché developing presentation opportunities for Dutch artists worldwide.