May 1-31, 2018, Baton Rouge Gallery is featuring work by three LSU School of Art professors: assistant professor Leslie Friedman, associate professor Kelli Scott Kelley, and associate director Michaelene Walsh. The opening reception was held on May 2, 2018, and on May 6 the artists spoke about their respective work at ARTiculate, Baton Rouge Gallery’s monthly artist talk series.
About Leslie Friedman
Leslie Friedman is an assistant professor of printmaking at LSU School of Art. She is an artist and educator who specializes in printmaking, sculpture, and installation. Friedman is an active player in the alternative gallery world. In 2011, she cofounded NAPOLEON, and art collective comprised of 10 artist and curatorial members with a gallery space in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally with some highlights including solo shows at Space 1026 in Philadelphia, Gallery (401) in Providence, and the Delaware Contemporary in Wilmington. Her work deals with political and social themes such as identity, simulacra, stereotype, gender, and religion.
Friedman’s work, titled Smoked Whitefish, is an exploration into questions of identity, social inclusion and exclusion, and gender and cultural stereotypes. “As a heteronormative cis-gendered Jewish woman, while on many levels I pass in contemporary popular culture, I am very aware of the echos of my own minority status, and the screams of others,” she said.
“I find myself asking how we can simultaneously celebrate our individual differences and cross the boundaries created for and by us in order to “create a chorus of shared voices (rather than a unified voice)?”
With this exhibition, Friedman proposes a new gang on the block. She explained, “As we say ‘yaddah, yaddah, yaddah’ – a phrase used by the speaker to skip over elements in a story – we become the Yaddah Yaddah Yaddahs, a group calling for all those skipped over to join together. Smoked Whitefish is my lighthouse in the night, my cattle call, to all of those out there struggling with our current times, but still yearning for connection, driven to action.”
“In this project and others, you can see how I am infinitely curious about how we represent ourselves and how others see us,” Friedman said. “Parody, appropriation, and collage-techniques tie together what I make in the studio to larger movements in contemporary culture. Primarily working with techniques in printmaking, I am also interested in alternative materials, installation, and sculpture. It is my hope that the hanging of this exhibition is only the start of a wide range of collaborations with performance and video, musicians, writers, thinkers, and general inquisitors.”
About Kelli Scott Kelley
Kelli Scott Kelley is an associate professor of painting at LSU School of Art. Originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Kelley received a bachelor of fine art from LSU and a master of fine art from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Her work has been primarily comprised of mixed-media narrative paintings, drawings, and objects. She has also collaborated with her husband, composer Bill Kelley, on surreal performances and video pieces. Kelley’s paintings have been exhibited in many venues, including the Mesic Ve Dne Gallerie in Czeske Budejovice, Czech Republic; Bangalore University in India; the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Hooks-Epstein Gallery in Houston, Texas; the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in Colorado; and Taylor Bercier Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work can be viewed at kelliscottkelley.com.
In Kelley’s work, figures, animals, and objects appear in metaphorical narratives, which explore humankind’s connections, disconnections, and impact on the natural world. “The primary focus in my work has been to create metaphorical narrative images,” she said.
The pieces in the exhibition titled Shadow, are about relationships – to one’s self and to “the other,” Kelley said. “In the images, there is an exploration of dualities that exist within ourselves, and the dichotomies that we confront through attempts to connect to other sentient beings, and with the natural world,” she said. “We all encounter and embody oppositions such as: male/female, animal/human, young and old.”
The “characters” depicted interact in ambiguous domestic and landscape settings, confronting intimacy and alienation. They each, at times, embody aspects of “the shadow.” There is an underlying sense of longing and loss, and a yearning for connection and unity. The pieces are painted on re-purposed vintage linens in an attempt to make the work in an ecologically conscious way. The linens also reference the history of women’s handicrafts and domesticity.
Shadow takes inspiration from Carl Jung, who once said, “Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. It may be (in part) one’s link to more primitive animal instincts, which are superseded during early childhood by the conscious mind.”
About Michaelene Walsh
Michaelene “Mikey” Walsh is associate director and an associate professor of art/ceramics at LSU. She received her BFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and her MFA from N.Y.S.C.C. at Alfred, NY. She has held teaching positions at Massachusetts College of Art, the University of Georgia, the University of Washington, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of California-Davis in addition to instructing at numerous alternative-learning venues such as Haystack School of Crafts, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Arrowmont, and Santa Fe Clay. Her sculptural ceramic work is exhibited internationally and is also featured in the publication The Figure in Clay by Lark Books.
“I would say that the impetus for my work it comes from my experience of reading poetry,” Walsh said. “I am interested in how poets arrive at compelling poems. A good poet can take an ordinary word or image and put it together with another somewhat ordinary word or image to create a surprising feeling – a sensation in the gut that is unusual, striking, fresh and memorable. My goal as an artist is to try to do this visually – to bring seemingly disparate, ordinary, or unremarkable images together to form something memorable.”
Bound, Walsh’s current work on display at the Baton Rouge Gallery, is “an exercise in appreciation that invites participation from the audience,” according to the gallery. An installation comprised of more than 100 ceramic bows, presented in a wide array of colors and patterns, are intended to be gifts of gratitude.
Walsh was inspired by a desire to express her own gratitude for where she finds herself at this point in her own life. “I spend a good deal of my time trying to make meaningful objects with my hands,” she said. “It is what I have dedicated my adulthood to and it is why – ultimately – I ended up living in Baton Rouge. Much in the way a plumber fixes a sink or my daughter’s teacher explains fractions, creating is one facet of how I contribute to this community. Bound stemmed from a simple desire to give of what I know and value, as much acknowledgement and appreciation for what others do and bring.”
Over the past several months she has made the ceramic bows. “Colored ribbons serve as symbols within our culture, visual reminders of what people support, value, or believe in,” Walsh said. “This project embraces that idea, my hope is to create a veritable constellation around our community – one suggesting the many ways in which we all are, or can be – bound.”
The exhibition is on view at the Baton Rouge Gallery through the month of May and is free and open to the public during gallery hours.
About Baton Rouge Gallery
The Baton Rouge Gallery, Center for Contemporary Art is a non-profit contemporary art gallery, located at BREC’s historic City Park pavilion. The gallery offers contemporary art exhibitions, featuring professional, local, and national artists, and hosts special performances, a spoken word program, and special juried and invitational exhibitions. Monthly exhibitions feature the work of current artist members, including photographers, painters, sculptors, stained-glass artists, printmakers, ceramists, multi-media and installation artists. Opening receptions are free and open the public and are held for each exhibition, 7–9 p.m., on the first Wednesday of every month.
About the School of Art
The LSU School of Art combines the best of both worlds: the resources and faculty of a large liberal arts institution and the personal attention that comes in a close-knit community. Students in the School of Art develop specialized skills while experimenting with various mediums, exploring their own creative intuition, and studying art history and contemporary art theory. Education comes from intensive critiques, working studio classes, dedicated professors, and engagement with the larger arts community through a curriculum that combines academic teaching and hands-on experiences, both on and off campus. For more information, visit art.lsu.edu.