On the walls of the Trustman Gallery, shadows from plastic wire, fiber and thread constructions hover over the soft grey texts of blown-up poems, plaster and paper reliefs and white-and-black print-collages. “Linger and Shift” is a collaboration between Boston sculptor Julia Shepley and Scottish-born poet Audrey Henderson. Their separate, yet deeply intermeshed works grew out of monthly conversations begun over a year ago.
The longtime friends were spurred to parallel play by a Boston Sculptors Gallery exhibition featuring verbal-visual collaboration. It intensified their psychic bond to discover that, as children undergoing family vicissitudes and illness, they both developed artistic sensitivities in an enforced solitude. “Being alone in rooms without adult intervention, life goes on, and you’re left to survey the passage of time,” Henderson mused. “You don’t know about time, so you study light and try to interpret your environment. You imbue your physical surrounding with emotional significance.”
These works play off both conversations and responses to each other’s formal works. A skilled printmaker, Shepley incorporates repeated marks and multiples in layered 3-D works hinting at voids, separation and leaps of light. Henderson’s terse poems excavate the past for clues to the present, grunting, choking and thrusting forward in a struggle with breath itself. At the entrance, Shepley’s individual wall reliefs and print-based works in related pairs will alternate with Henderson’s poems. A separate area will show Shepley’s precursory works.
“Some of the work that I didn’t produce within the collaboration still speaks to the same issues that we’re dealing with,” Shepley explained. “I’d like to include some of the different languages. The sculptures will go where they work the best with whatever work is there.”
In advance of the exhibition going on view, I spoke with Shepley and Henderson about the multi-media works in the show and the collaboration that added words to the images.
YOU’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT SPOKEN OR WRITTEN LANGUAGES, BUT THE LANGUAGES, THE DIFFERENT IDIOMS, OF ART. HAVE YOU WORKED BEFORE WITH TEXT OR LANGUAGE IDEAS?
JULIA SHEPLEY (JS): I write down words sometimes that capture the emotion or atmosphere I’m feeling at the time I’m doing a piece. I collect them and they influence the piece. In this case, it was more Audrey’s words. This is part of the “Migrant” series, before I started working with Audrey.
THERE’S THE HOUSE FORM AND THE WINDOW. IS THERE A NARRATIVE?
JS: It’s about things shifting, and capturing the shift and channeling; you bring your home with you wherever you go.
JS: Yeah, but also a kind of stability, because you’re bringing the stuff with you. When I work, I try to have strength and fragility at the same time.
I SEE THE FRAGILITY. THE STRENGTH IS HARDER TO UNDERSTAND.
JS: There’s strength, too. It survives me, and if it survives me, it survives a lot!
Last fall, Audrey told me about these match strikes on the courthouse wall that were really beautiful.