It Takes a Village
Wyatt Kenneth Coleman
Richard S. Chow
It Takes a Village is comprised of six exhibitions addressing the dynamic of working as a community through the subjects of family, race, gender, and age. Featured in the Main Gallery at MOAH are the works of celebrated assemblage artist Betye Saar and her daughters, artists Alison Saar and Lezley Saar. It Takes a Village will also showcase solo exhibitions of Wyatt Kenneth Coleman, Jane Szabo, and Richard S. Chow, with site specific installations by artists Lisa Bartleson and Scott Yoell.
Each of the artists featured in this exhibition explores the relationships and responsibilities of community. Betye, Alison, and Lezley Saar’s work consists of two and three-dimensional assemblages that examine history and identity through the juxtaposition of objects, photographs, mixed media, and fabric. The documentary photography of Lancaster resident Wyatt Kenneth Coleman chronicles the importance of engagement and oral history and the role it plays emphasizing the value of serving one’s community and family. Jane Szabo and Richard S. Chow present different work stylistically, but address similar themes of home, displacement, and sentimentality through conceptual photographs. Szabo records family history through objects while Chow’s images fabricate an imaginary history of what might have been if he had not been an immigrant. Lisa Bartleson’s large scale installation of hundreds of small hand-made houses explores the act of healing through community and engagement. The site specific work of Scott Yoell’s “Tsunami,” consisting of three thousand four-inch tall businessmen figures installed in a giant wave, represents the artist’s thoughts on the global economy and automation.
Memory & Identity: The Marvelous Art of Betye, Lezley & Alison Saar
Betye, Lezley and Alison Saar have created some of the most powerful, important and deeply moving art in our contemporary world. Their compelling works forge idiosyncratic constructions of social memory and personal identity, as well as the cultural histories underlying them. All three Saars assemble two- and three-dimensional works based on unexpected juxtapositions of form and content. They deploy the flotsam of material culture, from discarded architectural components (old windows, ceiling tiles, wall paper) to domestic detritus (washboards, buckets, shelves) to historic photographs and printed fabrics.
“I like things,” Betye asserted in a recent interview. “Every object tells a story. If I recombine them, they tell another story.” In their aesthetic practice of collecting and recombining objects, the Saars become what French philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss called bricoleurs: creators who arrange preexisting articles and images to produce dramatic visual compositions. Levi-Strauss expanded the French term bricoleur (a “Do-It-Yourself” handyman) to include anyone who works with the materials at hand, cobbling together disparate parts to create novel solutions.
All of the Saars use recycled materials not generally considered “appropriate” art media. Modern art academies, founded in Europe in the seventeenth century, had privileged oil paint on canvas and cast bronze as elite, “high art” media. In contrast, creations in jewelry, textiles and ceramics were considered “low art” or crafts. When the Saars employ objects like handkerchiefs and old books as painting surfaces, or tin ceiling tiles and buckets as sculpture, they violate long-held boundaries between high and low arts. Their material contraventions parallel the artists’ transgressions of identity-based binaries such as male/female, culture/nature and master/slave.
Wyatt Kenneth Coleman: Beyond the Village
Wyatt Kenneth Coleman is a freelance photojournalist whose career spans more than fifty years. While serving in the military during the Vietnam War, he studied at the U.S. Air Force Photography School, gaining skills that would benefit him in both his military and artistic careers. Coleman has dedicated his life to documenting social justice movements and people who strive to make a difference in the world around them.
Coleman’s dedication to helping others is evident in both his artistic practice and humanitarian contributions. In addition to documenting the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Coleman established a collaboration with Coretta Scott King in 1979, which remained active until her death. Coleman was interested in the effect that the Civil Rights Movement had on the lives of ordinary people, stating, “When a person is committed and makes a contribution to their community, lives are changed and doing the right thing is really key.” His work documents every-day people participating in non-violent activism by committing acts of kindness and working towards social justice. Coleman seeks to emphasize the importance that engagement and oral history play in passing down the value of serving one’s community and family.
Wyatt Kenneth Coleman has certifications from the Winona School of Professional Photography, the University of Minnesota and Santa Fe Photographic workshops. Coleman’s work has been shown in publications including 3M, Ebony and Jet Magazines and The Daily Word. Coleman has also been awarded for his selfless volunteer service in the communities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and was recognized for his volunteer work at the Elm Avenue Community Garden by Assemblyman Tom Lackey, in addition to receiving an award from Lancaster City Council for his contributions to the community.
Richard S. Chow: Distant Memories
Richard S. Chow’s photography focuses on aesthetic, documentary and conceptual images. Technical precision and composition remain the hallmarks of his work, but Chow continues to examine all aspects of the artistic medium including homemade shooting devices, film, phone and high tech digital cameras.
Chow’s interest in photography began during his formative years in Hong Kong. His family moved from Hong Kong to Los Angeles when he was sixteen. Those first years were difficult for an immigrant teenager due to language and culture shifts, and at times were overwhelming as he tried to find his place in this new world. As the American culture was slowly absorbed, southern California was a place that eventually provided him with comfort and inspiration as a young man. Chow now frequents the beach regularly as a place for relaxation and observation. With this series, Distant Memories, he captures the childhood that he could have experienced. Like finding shells on the shore, Chow collects visual memories and while they might not be his own memories, they allow him to imagine a childhood in a place he now calls home.
Chow has widely exhibited in solo and juried exhibits across the United States and his work has been internationally published and is featured in several private and public collections. He is a producer/curator for global OPEN SHOW (Los Angeles Chapter), a non-profit that provides a forum for dialog between the public, artists, galleries and collectors. Chow earned awards in Lucie Foundation’s IPA International Photography Awards four years in a row (2013-2016) and he was honored with gold, silver and bronze awards from Tokyo International Foto Awards. Chow lives and works in Los Angeles.
Lisa Bartleson: Kindred
Lisa Bartleson, known primarily as a sculptor, is an artist who uses resin and ceramic material in both two and three dimensional work. She is known for using natural pigments, inviting a calm, constant and enduring contemplation from the viewer.
Lisa Bartleson’s Kindred is a large-scale installation composed of over 200 slip casted porcelain houses that have been manipulated and traumatized, displaying various stages of physical and emotional restoration that explores healing in and by the community. In this work, Bartleson references the Japanese tradition of kintsugi as an exercise of restoration. Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold lacquer as a way to emphasize and celebrate the history of a piece rather than disguise its past. The multitude of houses are bound together by their shared experience and placement. From a standing position one views the entire installation from a bird’s-eye view, similarly to how people perceive and rearticulate memory. The object as body, scarred but beautiful, strong and elastic, becomes central to the experience. The onlooker is asked to examine their cracks caused by physical and/or emotional suffering and the communal foundations of memory and recovery that filter, shift and support identity. Bartleson layers the experience with her own heartbeat and the sound of a baby’s heartbeat in the womb, reminding us that we are all built from material, memory and a universal cycle of life.
She earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Northern Colorado. Her work is in many prominent public and private collections including the Lancaster Museum of Art and History. Bartleson has been featured in many publications such as White Hot Magazine, Fabrik Magazine, Huffington Post, LA Art Diary, Architectural Digest and Sunset Magazine. Lisa Bartleson was born in Seattle, Washington and currently resides in northern California.
Scott Yoell: Tsunami
Scott Yoell has delved into traditional and electronic media with his most recent works being drawing, sculpture and video/sound installation. Yoell’s fascination with trinkets and the nostalgia they provoke inspired the Tsunami installation.
Yoell first conceived the idea of Tsunami many years ago when visiting a shop in Omaha, Nebraska. He found “a trinket figure, a little metal business man.” The tiny trinket reminded Yoell of the figures atop of trophies, but wondered what a suited man could represent. Intrigued by the unknown, he bought the figure and from it stemmed the idea of Tsunami. This installation consists of three thousand figures, all standing approximately four inches tall. Each figure is of a man in a business suit and hat holding a briefcase. The figures are cast in a “flesh-toned” plastic and are formed from the same mold. The mold deteriorates over time, causing each figure to have minor differences, making each one unique. These individual, tiny men come together to form a tsunami, an unusually large waved caused by a shift in the earth’s foundation.
Yoell has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Windsor, Canada and a Master of Fine Art in Imaging and Digital Arts from the University of Maryland. His work has been featured in The Contemporary Museum’s Biennial of Hawaii Artist Exhibition, Honolulu, Hawaii, the Galleria Art Mûr, Montreal, Quebec and Artcite, Windsor, Ontario. Yoell has been featured at the Videoholica 2010 International Video Art Festival, Varna, Bulgaria. Scott Yoell, originally from Windsor, Ontario now lives in Waimea, Hawaii.
Jane Szabo: Family Matters
Merging her love for fabrication and materials with conceptual photography, Jane Szabo investigates issues of self and identity in her latest body of work, Family Matters. Szabo uses still life as a vehicle to share stories from her life. The objects photographed, isolated on a black field, provoke thoughts about home, displacement and sentimentality.
Family Matters incorporates memory, metaphor and allegory to express the challenges, anxieties and joys as Szabo’s role as a daughter and her parents’ caretaker. This series uses objects from their family home, mementos from her childhood, to illustrate the story of their relationship. Using these childhood possessions and simple items that have been in their family for years, she creates tableaus that hint at complicated family dynamics. The presentation of these objects is not merely a catalog of possessions, but a catalog of feelings; of pain and disappointment, loss, burden and hope.
Jane Szabo is a multi-disciplinary visual artist who earned an MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Her background in the film industry, creating prop and miniatures for theme parks, and overseeing set construction for film and television undoubtedly informs her creative process. Szabo’s photographs have been featured in many publications including Huffington Post, Lenscratch, Bokeh Bokeh, L’Oeil de la Photographie, F-Stop Magazine, Diversions LA and ArtsMeme among others. Her work has been included in exhibitions at Oceanside Museum of Art, the Griffin Museum of Photography, The Colorado Center for Photographic Arts, San Diego Art Institute, Los Angeles Center for Photography, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, Gallery 825 in Los Angeles, and the 2015 Kaohsiung International Photographer Exhibition in Taiwan.