Hera Gallery’s “Silent Presence” exhibition opened on June 10 with limited hours. In this exhibition, which physically closed on August 1, four women artists used photography, sculptures and paintings to reflect upon the human perspectives of the man-made and natural world around us. You can see the entire exhibition online at https://www.heragallery.org/silent-presence.
The title of the exhibit appears to be a nod towards the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has changed our lifestyles. In putting together the show, Molly Kaderka, Viera Levitt, Elizabeth Lind and Roberta Richman became familiar with each other’s work and found the common thread of nature’s presence within each other’s pieces.
Painter Kaderka’s work in the exhibit expresses the theme of how humans relate to the natural world and find meaning and connection with it. Growing up in the Catholic Church surrounded by historical, western images, Kaderka said that, “I’ve always been interested in how people try to represent spiritual connection. And for me, as an atheist, I’m interested in that tradition of how to represent the sublime or the thing that feels so grand, which I think people would historically call a God, but if I don’t believe in that, what is it?” She added that, “I still feel that spiritual connection, but where I feel it to the natural world, such as when I’m surrounded by a night sky.”
Kaderka also conveyed her love for the history of the natural world. Recently, while she said that she has “always looked at rocks because I’m interested in Earth history,” she said that as she’s been doing research and looking into fossils and other specimens, she’s realized that there is another mass extinction going on right now. “It is a silent presence. We aren’t talking about it, it’s just numbers to most people. And most of the species that are going extinct build up a really important ecosystem, and we’re often too distracted or completely overwhelmed by the prospect that there’s nothing that we can do.”
In her body of work for the exhibition, Kaderka said that she tried to, “draw more attention to this issue, not in the way of saying that ‘we have to stop this,’ but rather as saying ‘this is still going on. We can’t deny that.’”
Levitt, a photographer, focuses more on the connection between humans and man-made structures. Her photos of Brutalist Architecture from the 1960s and ‘70s reveal the beauty of its shape, form and history. Despite the age of the architecture, Levitt believes that its beauty should not be dismissed because it’s old and has problems. Through her photography, Levitt said that she, “tried to find the beauty in something that is overlooked. These buildings are not going anywhere, they are here to stay. In everyday life, we forget to look at things as we looked at everything as if it were new and exciting when we were children. I feel a similar way about these buildings because when you really start to look, you find the architecture with the strong, utopian imperials of the ‘60s. Giving life to these buildings again is really interesting and exciting and makes people pay attention, which is what art should do.”
Since Brutalist Architecture is mostly male-made or =designed architecture, Levitt explained that, “looking at this architecture as a woman and finding something that makes it more relatable by finding details that you can find connection to is very interesting.” She believes that photography was a powerful way to open people’s eyes to architecture because, “If I had painted, I might have changed what was there. I wanted to photograph it to show what’s there for everyone to notice.”
Through her sculptures, Lind depicts the connection between nature and the female form. As a female, Lind understands the genuine connection that females have with nature that men don’t always have. She mentions how “Women are more tied to nature and to cycles, and I find this kind of timelessness that just repeats no matter what is just exciting to work with, which relates back to nature.” She has a great admiration for the natural world, explaining that “Looking at something that is so ancient, though I will use the stone for my work, is a big responsibility, because what right do I have to change this beautiful object? But, I do, and I love being a part of that.”
When creating her work, Lind “retreats into an alternate reality, especially during these times where everything is so urgent with politics and humanity. It’s urgent, but it won’t last forever.” In her work, Lind tries to find the balance between the timely and the timelessness of the world. She believes that “nature can be a place to go to, to deeply think about things.”
Richman’s paintings combine the creativity of her imagination and her love for nature to create art that is entirely new and unique, rather than simple replications of nature. She said that she’s always thought of her work as landscapes. Despite the evolution of her art over time into its own style and medium, Richman said that, “The perspective has always been me immersing myself into a landscape and taking away elements that are in my self-consciousness that translate themselves onto paper, almost automatically. I look at landscapes and I see those things, but I don’t tell people who are viewing my work what they should see in terms of landscape or nature or an abstraction of color, shape and form.”
Along with the display at the gallery, the exhibition is also available to view on the Hera Gallery website. Though the exhibit was not able to have an opening reception or artists’ talk as most galleries do because of state restrictions, gallery director Sarah Swift explained that, “taking pictures of every piece of artwork and putting it online makes the show entirely available through the gallery’s website. This makes the gallery accessible to people to really anybody, from local people to people outside of the U.S.”
Because of the accessibility of virtual galleries, artist Roberta Richman added that “[Virtual galleries] is something that [Hera Gallery] is looking to permanently incorporate in our operations.” Even before the pandemic, because of Hera’s location in a small Rhode Island community, the exposure to the gallery and the art within it was limited. Richman explained how, “This evolution of how we’re doing business has expanded the possibilities of viewership well beyond what it ever was, or could be, from a single website. So, things will likely change for the better on that level [of viewership].”
(“Silent Presences” runs through August 1 at Hera Gallery, 10 High St., South Kingston, Rhode Island. For more information, call (401) 789-1488 or visit heragallery.org.)