This spring feels especially full of renewal as we begin to rise from this pandemic, as we raise up our voices for justice, as we bloom and rise into the light. When we shared this open call with the theme of “Rise” we had these ideas in mind.
What emerged encompasses the hope and transformation of this season and this strange time, from the fragility of the gently rising bubbles in Tricia Townes’ work to the hopefulness of Alison Rae Campbell’s colorful abstracted cityscapes. We saw repeated themes and imagery around circles, with so many references including bubbles, mushrooms, shells, moons, holes, and the whole. Plants aptly appeared in several works, quite literally growing and rising in Kirsten Heteji’s “Where The Dreams Grow.” Becky Jane Rosen’s plants adorn her quilts while her text seems to encourage (sometimes loudly!) their cultivation, yet truly seeks to encourage “conversations surrounding intergenerational feminist personal finance.” Florence Alfano McEwin also draws connections between plants and feminism, referencing the “tradition of flower pressing done as remembrance” which was seen as women’s work. Mothers especially are celebrated in Kya Nguyen’s work, “who wake up everyday and take on the world for their children.”
Yet, there is also a darker side to renewal. What is lost as this world changes? Georgina Arroyo’s work around the housing crisis and gentrification evokes the displacement, insecurity, and loss many are experiencing to a greater extent during the pandemic. Her flames rise up, engulfing the curtains in the piece title “Espera la Ceniza” (wait for the ash). As we rise from the ashes, what do we leave behind? A theme of memory and nostalgia also emerged, as in Devann Donovan Gardner’s beautifully yet selectively rendered portraits and Hannah Zimmerman’s collage-like snapshots of domestic space. Transformation is not pretty. As Ferris Jabr describes in Scientific American, “First, the caterpillar digests itself, releasing enzymes to dissolve all of its tissues. If you were to cut open a cocoon or chrysalis at just the right time, caterpillar soup would ooze out.” That oozing can be felt in the texture of the wax in Silvana Smith’s work, where a butterfly dangles, no longer flying. The butterflies in Monika Malewska’s work become decorative within the absurdity of her compositions. She says, “At first glance, my compositions are seductively colorful and bright. Closer inspection, however, reveals elements of unease and decay.” This closer inspection and revelation is what we have been collectively experiencing in recent years on a broader societal scale.
When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid The new dawn blooms as we free it For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it If only we’re brave enough to be it – Amanda Gorman, excerpt from “The Hill We Climb”