Kishka. Tourist. Friday Night
There’s a lot going on at Kishka Gallery, what with the rainbow hues and the quotes from Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks. Untitled (Reading Rainbow) is a multi-media installation that draws inspiration from the gallery’s own physicality. For the artist Untitled Queen, it began with that magical patterned floor, discovered when the new gallery owners Ben Finer and Bevan Dunbar stripped back some old carpet. Untitled Queen, with an assist from Finer, reimagined the entire space by extending the floor design up the gallery walls, the better to site her individual pieces.
Most of which constitute a love letter to reading and text, particularly appropriate in a gallery walled with bookshelves and whose full name is Kishka Gallery and Library. There’s some colorful soft sculpture sausages draped about as an homage to the gallery’s name. And it’s a collaborative affair. Fellow artist Jess Ramsay, for example, has contributed a piece with a carved-out book of Brothers Grimm, vintage Memorex tape, and earphones for listening. The gallery air vibrates with the voices of other artists as they read their poetry aloud. Untitled (Reading Rainbow) is not just an exhibition for anywhere. It’s an exhibition unique to and chummy with this particular space.
Site-specific is a word used in art installations for work that considers, influences, and is influenced by place, often used (though not exclusively) with land art and large, grandiose works like those of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude. One commentator noted: “Site-specific work is not for the faint of heart. It takes a crazy amount of guts and pure, blind faith to trust an artist with hundreds, if not thousands or tens of thousands, of square feet at her disposal.” Or, one might add, even a petite few hundred square feet of gallery, like Kishka.
The exhibition continues through October. There will be a weekend of performances on October 16-17 featuring Untitled Queen, Jess Ramsay, and Vermont drag artist Rhedd Rhum. It will include “drag, spoken word, sound, and some sausages.”
Around the corner at Tourist, co-owner Chad Etting and Brooklyn-based artist Corey Presha have teamed up in an eponymous exhibition, Presha/Etting, just opened and continuing through October. Both artists include text in their works, displayed in Tourist’s two tiny galleries. Etting’s small scale pieces play with familiar and local brand names (L.L Bean, Price Chopper) and asks how brand contributes to identity. Presha uses found images from multiple sources—Ebay to old postcards—and adds text to provide new context and interpretation. Both artists’ work seem to be reflecting our not-quite-past pandemic times.
The two galleries opened their doors as part of White River Junction’s First Friday celebration. Artists were on hand in both places; a personal shout-out to all three who were kind enough to walk me through their exhibitions and talk about their work. Tempted to cap the gallery crawl by sampling the cocktail culture at Wolf Tree, but there was nary a seat.
(Photo, top, Artist Untitled Queen with Excerpt of poet Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem, “Beverly Hills, Chicago”. Photos by Susan B. Apel)
From “Beverly Hills, Chicago” by Gwendolyn Brooks:
We know what they go to. To tea. But that does not mean
They will throw some little black dots into some water and add sugar and the juice of the cheapest lemons that are sold,
While downstairs that woman's vague phonograph bleats, "Knock me a kiss."
Welcome! You’re reading Artful, a blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley, and I hope you’ll subscribe and then share this with your friends and on your social media.
And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.