Art show at Piano Craft Gallery through March 28
Local artists are reflecting on their struggles during the pandemic through artworks in the “Upended” exhibition by the Fountain Street Gallery.
The show is currently taking place at the Piano Craft Gallery until March 28, featuring the latest work of 22 core members of the Fountain Street Gallery.
“The show is a tribute to everyone whose life and livelihood has been upended by the COVID,” Melissa Shaak, the curator of the exhibition, explained its title.
Her maiden voyage in curating is accompanied by unprecedented challenges. “Upended” was originally scheduled to take place in late 2020, but the pandemic and a ruptured water pipe in the gallery district last April not only delayed the show but also forced her to relocate.
To ensure visitors’ safety, the gallery enforces strict rules including mandatory face covering and social distancing. The gallery only admits 25 people at the same time, less than a quarter of its ordinary capacity. The gallery will also take the names and phone numbers of the visitors for contact tracing if needed.
All the artworks in the exhibition are available on the website for those who feel uncomfortable visiting in-person. The curators and artists will hold a virtual reception on Mar. 21.
Considering the lower-than-usual demand, “Upended” will only open to the public Fridays 6-8 p.m., Saturdays, and Sundays 12-5 p.m.
The Piano Craft Gallery is larger than the Fountain Street Gallery where the show was originally planned to take place. Alexandra Rozenman, one of the artists, reached out to six other artists to create a collaborative artwork through the creating process of “exquisite corpse”—one artist finished one part of the artwork, then he or she passed the unfinished piece to the next artist.
The artists met over Zoom several times during the creation process, but they did not know what the artwork looked like until the installation day.
The work is both “surprising” and “disjointed,” Shaak said. She explained the essence of the piece was to show that people are “joined in together in an unexpected way” during the pandemic.
For Shaak, the best part of the exhibition was that the artists told their stories during the pandemic through their artworks.
Tatiana Flis is one of the artists who contributed to the communal art piece. She said the artwork is both chaotic and serene, just like the pandemic.
During the pandemic, she started teaching art to her niece and nephew. The art class eventually turned into a family Zoom meeting every Sunday. She hardly had time to reach out to her family because they live in the South.
“There is always a bit of a silver lining that I got to spend more time with them [my family members],” Flis said.
Flis created 11 abstract paintings representing her relationship with each of the family members. She asked each of them to offer prompts for the painting including three colors, a shape, and an emotion. She then painted based on the elements they offered.
She painted her father’s work on a ledger, representing her strongest memory of him balancing his books once a month.
Flis used bay leaves and the bottom of egg crates as stamps to create patterns for her mother, representing the Ukrainian easter egg she used to make. Her mother named tree patterns and passion as prompts.
Chris Plunkett brought a group of pencil sketches on lined notebook paper as his contribution. The note on the corner of these sketches shows that they were made during class.
Besides being a core member of the gallery, Plunkett is also an art teacher at a school in Roxbury, grades 4 to 8.
When the school moved to remote learning, Plunkett worried some students may not have the tools they commonly used at school.
To make sure students can have equal chances of practicing art, the first assignment Plunkett gave to his students was asking them to paint on anything but paper. One student drew a pear on a banana. The other student drew still life on a piece of napkin with sauce.
“Art means we use what we have, not what we wish to have,” Plunkett said.
He drove around the city bringing art supplies to students who need them.
Meanwhile, he developed a set of lectures teaching students to paint only with notebook paper and pencil. The painting was inspired by Pejac, a Spanish artist known for drawing miniature human figures on an abstract background. For each lesson, Plunkett illustrates one technique to the students and finishes one sketch based on the technique by the end of each class.
“Not every student will have art supplies, but I know everybody will have notebook paper,” Plunkett explained.
Besides his own work, he brought drawings from a few of his students. He thinks that the students’ works are the perfect match for the theme because their lives had changed dramatically since the pandemic broke out. “No one got more upended than the students this year,” he said.
Patty deGrandpre is a multimedia artist. She also has another identity as an ambulatory dermatology nurse.
She creates prints with everyday objects. During the pandemic, she brought back some bandages from work and arranged them until they looked like a landscape. However, she did not specify which landscape each image resembles.
“Everybody sees what they wanna see,” deGrandpre explains. “Whatever your eyes tell you what it is, you go with it.”
She intends to communicate with others what she had been through last year through her work.
During the first part of the pandemic, deGrandpre was stressed as a nurse. Many of her colleagues were sent to testing sites and ICU to help, leaving her and one other colleague assisting with skin procedures.
After the clinic operation went back to normal, deGrandpre looked back to her experience, searching for inspiration. First time in her career, she channeled her identity as a nurse to her identity as an artist. She chose bandages to represent her life as a nurse.
“It felt liberating once I used those materials,” she recalled.