Each year at the International Encaustic Conference, Joanne Mattera, Founder/Director, and Cherie Mittenthal, Executive Director of Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, offer an unparalleled opportunity to artists to participate in the Conference Curatorial Program. They offer a location, advice, mentoring, and publicity for a curated exhibition of work by attendees of the Conference for the seven days of the Conference, Pre-, and Post-conference workshops. I was delighted and honored to have my proposal chosen in 2011 for an exhibition titled Natura Viva that took place at ArtCurrents on Bradford Street in Provincetown. It was an invaluable experience in curating, organizing, and publicizing an exhibition. I had a great time choosing artists and their work, designing and installing the show, and learning to write about it.
This year, I proposed another exhibition on a theme. I wanted to display work that involved a certain use of line as an element in two-dimensional work and knew, having attended all eight previous Conferences, that there was a wealth of artists from which to choose a distinctive array of work. I found the writing a bit easier this time and sent in my proposal.
I chose three artists and myself. I am firstly an artist, not a professional curator. The fun and delight in a project like this comes from pairing up work with my own and starting a discussion that I can learn and grow from. I looked for artists who use line as a formal element in their work in an organic manner. I wanted work that celebrated the drawn line, the organic, loose, wavering, and telling line made by the hand. My work uses the line to describe contours of living plants. Amy Weil uses the inscribed line to “reflect the natural world”. In Elizabeth Harris’ words, she uses the incised line to create “associations to language, science, and spirituality”. Lisa Pressman’s wide lines in the Decipher Series act to “evoke a visceral response”. We all use the telling nature of the drawn, painted, scratched out, or dug in line as an integral element in the expression of human-ness in the living world.
What a delight, then to have my proposal accepted! The exhibition would be in the teeny Gallery 10 at Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill where the Pre- and Post-conference workshops are held. The building is a challenge that each of the previous Curators had risen to in amazing ways. (Natalie Abrams in 2013, Supria Karmaker in 2012, Nancy Natale and Susan Lasch Krevitt in 2014.)
Some magic happened between bringing in large panels and small panels, more than could possibly fit into the clean and tidy but small gallery that also housed the Library for the art center. My artist friend and helper Linda Basha Brookshire and I opened doors and windows, the sun came out and suddenly the walls expanded and the rooms grew to perfection. We enjoyed a lovely opening reception filled with appreciative guests. I am forever grateful to Joanne and Cherie and the staff at Castle Hill for a marvelous experience.
Curating an exhibition enlarges you in unexpected ways. It helps you to think about your own work in terms of its elements and objectives. But it also helps to place your work in context with themes and the modes of working of the 200 to 300 artists around you at each Conference. This is a direct result of the Conference itself, and Joanne Mattera’s efforts as “raising the bar”. We may have all initially gathered together for the Conference with materiality and techniques in common–the lush tactility and translucence of wax and pigment–but the annual gathering has really promoted the ascendency of content, and the means to content, that is vastly more important, it seems. We’ve been seeing each others’ growth and expansion now for 10 years, ideas originating and developing, in concert and in divergence, that has created more than the sum of its parts.
So, I can’t think of any experience more definitive in my growth as an artist than my two forays into curating. I will do it again at the next opportunity!
To look at the individual works, artist statements, and an essay by Joanne Mattera, check out the exhibition catalog The Incisive Line