Sara Conklin | Mary Tooley Parker | Polly Shindler | Patricia Weise

West Gallery | August 28 – October 3, 2020

Sara Conklin works in both oil and mixed media on paper.  The structure of the house is a recurring theme and one of her favorite subjects.   This easily recognizable object takes on new meaning through juxtaposition or layering as Conklin asks to viewer to see the home both structurally and emotionally.  In the series of works on paper, “Abandoned Farm Series”, part of the Five Points show,  Conklin portrays the stories of people’s lives by depicting the homes they have left behind  Conklin draws her inspiration from an abandoned farmhouse located near a busy highway in New York State that she has observed for over 15 years.  The house, although composed of inanimate parts, has an intense, vibrant story.  It contains within its fading façade the vivacity of the people who lived there in the past as well as reflects the changing landscape of rural New York, from farm country to subdivisions and strip malls. The house contains secrets, loss, sadness, joy, and other emotions that bind people together, strangers and families alike.  Through her work Conklin wants Just like the body is the vessel for the soul, the house is a vessel for the lives within.

Mary Tooley Parker is a textile maker. Her artwork focuses on realistic interpretations of people and nature, whether from memories, local history, or visual images. Incorporated in her work are new and recycled wool, cotton, and silk fabric, fleece, handspun yarn, silk fiber, metallic fibers, and more. She uses natural and synthetic dyes to create colors as needed.

Textile art is received by the viewer in a different way than fine art, and there is science showing that a different part of the brain is stimulated when viewing a textile. It appeals to the senses, especially touch, and gives a feeling of warmth and familiarity before the brain even registers the visual image. Working in the simple medium of rug hooking affords Parker a strong connection not only to the fibers running through her fingertips, but also to the women who used this medium and other fiber mediums to express themselves during difficult times and with limited materials. Using this medium as a creative expression of her 21st century experience, she carries this tradition into the contemporary art world by taking the work off the floor to be viewed as art.

When I begin a painting, my attention is focused on the design of both the physical “room” as well as that of the painting. I create a space on canvas by using paint to convey the idea or “symbol” of a room. The spaces I depict are imagined and sourced from images found both in the real and digital world.

My interest in creating these rooms grew first from an investigation of solitude and retreat, and then to a narrower focus on composition and more formal concepts. I consider color, pattern and texture in an architectural and art historical context in creating each work. My interest in both classical styles and modern designs create a scaffold for the space I want to construct and these decisions dictate the room’s feeling and atmosphere.

These gouache paintings of dishdrainers are part of a series I’m calling Kitchen Clutter. I started these paintings thinking of them as close-ups of larger paintings of interior spaces, but they have taken on their own direction. Although I have been working on this series for about three years, I still find compelling reasons in each painting to continue the exploration. I’m not sure what attracts me to this subject. There is certainly an element of celebration of daily life, along with the recognition that these domestic rituals represent a daily struggle to keep a household from falling into utter chaos.
Perhaps the repetitive, meditative quality of some household tasks is not a far stretch from the actual activity of painting the scene. There is enjoyment in bringing order, even harmony, to a random arrangement of objects, shapes and colors. The drama and tension between flat shapes, lines of perspective, light and shadow and color are all played out on the picture plane. As the artist Kerry James Marshall said in a recent interview “The picture plane is the site of every action. How things occupy that space matters more than anything.”
On another level, the objects depicted — teakettles, dishes, pots and pans, cups and glasses — can be seen as stand-ins for the deep human connections made in conversation in the kitchen.