Welcome to our May/June 2021 issue, which I hope finds you in good health.
When we started planning this issue, our team was in full self-protection mode, going out, at most, a few times a week, rarely for anything other than acquiring life essentials or visiting an exhibition if restrictions allowed. Then, as our copy and production deadlines neared, we found ourselves working around vaccine appointments and the added protection of a few extra days for any residual effects. And now, as this issue arrives in your hands, we’ve carefully returned to what we and our writers love doing most — going out and seeing art and interacting with the people who make it, sell it, promote it and purchase it.
During these 14 months of solitude, I’ve especially enjoyed the online presentations by Rhode Island’s Hera Gallery and how it managed to curate and share art and images from around the world. Previewing its upcoming ‘Turmoil and Transformation’ exhibition, that opens on May 15, and exchanging emails with some of its artists, lightened up my mood, and working with the gallery to secure its images was a pleasant sign that we’re on our way back.
“Though we were not all on the same boat this year, we were in the same storm,” said Sonja Czekalski, Hera’s gallery director. “Turmoil and Transformation” serves as a reminder that we may not be out of the storm, but we are all still here working together, to build back better, when the storm has passed.”
In jurying the show, Francine Weiss, senior curator at the Newport Art Museum, said that she approached viewing the submitted works, which came from throughout the United States, “interested in what artists were making, how they were making art despite logistical challenges, and how they were responding to the isolation of COVID.”
She went on to remind me of the challenges our artists have faced in continuing their work. “Some had lost access to studios, important gigs, in-person teaching jobs, galleries, homes. Everyone was adapting and trying to make things and stay centered in the face of uncertainty, loss, anxiety and tragedy.”
What place will this pandemic period artwork have in history? Weiss noted that while we don’t know what will have lasting value from this period; anti-Vietnam War prints by people like Ad Reinhardt and Mark di Suvero, among others, and a “Big Daddy Paper Doll” print by May Stevens that had been bequeathed to the museum by a donor have had a lasting importance.
“The works were timely; they were current when they were made and are forever anchored to a time period (1960s/1970s). Yet they are timeless in the sense that, we understand they were made at an important historical moment, they speak to us across time. They can speak to conflicts, cultural currents and injustices today. There is art being made like that right now that will speak across time,” Weiss stated.
For this issue, along with show reviews, I gave several assignments intended to support Asian-born artists and tell their stories through their art during a period many Asian-Americans are being met with hostility and violence.
Suzanne Volmer had a long engaging phone call with Jennifer Wen Ma, who was born in Beijing and now splits her time between China and the United States, about her “An Inward Sea” installation that opens open May 6 at New Britain Museum of American Art. If you recall the amazing spectacle of the Opening Ceremonies of 2008 Beijing Olympics, you’ve already seen her work that is sure to be even more moving in person.
KT Browne visited the studio of South Korean- born Youngsheen A. Jhe, who has used her artwork to explore and share her experiences as a foreigner here in the United States, to view paintings from her upcoming “Nonetheless” exhibition that takes place in June at Boston’s Galatea Fine Art.
Don Wilkinson called my attention to Trinidad- born Alison Wells’ “In the Neighborhood” exhibition at the New Bedford Whaling Museum; the paintings celebrate New Bedford’s “Melting Pot,” while not hiding from reminding us there’s still much work to be done so that everyone feels welcome.
Beth Neville found some “anxiety, beauty and nature” in viewing the South Shore Art Center’s nationally solicited “PIVOT” exhibition that was juried by Katherine French, gallery director of Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.
Marguerite Serkin visited Keene, New Hampshire’s New Leaf Gallery as it prepares to move into a new space and present a full slate of late spring and summer exhibitions that are on the way in filling a huge need in the region.
Lee Roscoe reflects on the realist paintings of Scott Prior, whose “Illuminations” of some of New England’s most charming locations are on view through May 29 at the Cahoon Museum of American Art, while J.M. Belmont explored the work ethic of Michael C. Thorpe while discussing his “Meandering Thoughts” exhibition at LaiSun Keane that has brought regional attention to the fiber arts and more specifically, his own carefully crafted quilts.
Elizabeth Michelman contributes an in-depth look at Jo Ann Rothschild, whose large canvases from 30 years ago and small pieces made over the past year during self-quarantine are currently on view in “Hope for the Future” at HallSpace in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She also traveled to the Cape Cod studio of Lori Mehta to see and talk about her Atlantic Light paintings that will be on view at the Beacon Gallery in Boston’s SoWa District.
Ron Fortier, whose own painting can be seen during May as part of the 2021 South Coast Artists Members Invitational at Gallery Four in Tiverton Four Corners, Rhode Island, reviews the “Digital Breath: Video and Sound Art in the Age of Global Connectivity” show at Newport Art Museum.
Speaking of the digital age — if you’re still trying to make sense about the art world’s latest obsession — NFTs — Nancy Nesvet, who has investigated selling her own artwork through the format, provides a thorough explanation of the digital medium that could become a “game changer” for the art world.
This issue opens with details from a post-vaccination visit I made to Boston’s Newbury Street that was written with the hope it’ll convince you to return to our galleries and museums that need your support now more than ever. With occupancy guidelines and timelines rapidly changing, if you plan a trip to one of the exhibitions covered in this issue, please call the venue ahead of time to confirm they’ll be open and if you still need to reserve a viewing time — and tell them you heard about it through Artscope. We’ll both appreciate the gesture.