Adaptation. It’s what makes great leaders, educators, and creators. The willingness, ability, and creativity to respond to change is what defines a functioning business, especially during this time of uncertainty. We are all stepping forward into a dark time marked by consistent updates and changes that aren’t all trustworthy. Artists—the creatives among us—have stepped up right now out of necessity, but also because art is what holds us all together when it feels like the world is falling apart. With the help of art, many of us can see a way through the dark; we can see the other side in wondrous contrast.
Together we’ve entered a virtual global community where events that would normally be closed or too expensive for wide public consumption are now open for free streaming online to anyone who has the access.
Though they are not gone for good, barriers are falling. One of the things that stands out during this time in the artist community is how the social distancing and virtual world is affecting how artists reach the people around them. Zoom or Skype photo shoots are becoming a norm. The medium of the display screen adding a different dimension to the work that puts distance, and in a way, intimacy to the work. There are streaming events of award shows and virtual exhibitions that give patrons open access to shows.
‘We Are All Contagious’ by visual artist Benjamin Saucier and ‘Multiplicity and the Body’ by biofabrication artist Caelin Lee are both upcoming virtual exhibitions by local artists.
Saucier’s work focuses on the current global pandemic and America’s response to these uncertain and scary times. Saucier says, “I seek to illustrate the uniquely American attitude taken towards the virus…anxiety, doubt, confusion, and misinformation.”
Juxtaposing the up front and personal style of Saucier’s work with Lee’s intimate almost scientific work brings to mind the questions of what separates art from science, is there a separation; is science only art with consequences? “My work and its presence in relation to our bodies is applied to provoke kinesthetic stimulation through the manipulation of light and form within the layered structures,” Lee says. They go on to say, “…fibers woven by other organisms mirror the connection between our perceptions and the society which surrounds us.”
‘We Are All Contagious’ is a national juried curated show by author Nato Thompson, Artistic Director of Philadelphia Contemporary, and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The show will feature artists and works from around the country. Saucier’s pieces Bleach Drinker and When We Cough We Kalashnikov willboth be featured in the show for their depiction of the current global pandemic.
“It is a distillation of imagery from the nightly news juxtaposed with realities observed from the ground. Of molecules and madness, death and despair, chaos and grocery stores,” Saucier says of the pieces featured in the show. The pieces selected for the exhibit openly criticize and put under the microscope certain reactions shared, tweeted, posted, and done during this pandemic and layers it with the emotions felt.
“As an artist, I find solitude quite natural,” Saucier continues. His work has been exhibited across the country from Maine to New Mexico. Originally from Florida, Saucier has lived in Olympia for the last three years. He studied at Hampshire College and Maine College of Art. During his studies, he focused on storytelling, which is apparent in his works that often tell a full story in on image. With his noted privilege, Saucier believes that he has, “…a responsibility to use [his] artistic practice in a way that emulates some of the realities of our current situation.” His work and the exhibition will be available for viewing beginning June 1, 2020.
Lee is originally from Texas is an interdisciplinary biofabrication artist. Biofabrication is the mechanical production of tissues, organs, and other materials. This work is usually done for medical reasons but isn’t limited to medicine alone. It’s a mingling of art and science on the small and large scale.
“Relative space and scale are integral to engagement with the art object,” Lee says of their medium. The way they approach their art is like clockwork magic: “There is an alchemy to my practice in which research and careful documentation coincide with experimentation and the unknown.”
Using kombucha and algae, Lee makes leather and plastic materials that they then create resonating pieces that blend the barriers between what the world is and what it could be. “Centering on multiplicity and transformation, the work applies these mediums to reference the body—communicating individual identity, social constructs, and healing,” Lee states.
“I have developed a unique experience for those to really feel like they’re at an exhibit. Viewers can explore pieces as if they were up close and can engage with the art by zooming in to focus on the finer details,” Lee says about their upcoming virtual exhibit, Multiplicity and the Body.
Due to its online nature, people who sign up for the exhibition have unlimited access to view the works whenever they choose. “When I was introduced to bio-art I couldn’t help but be drawn to the blending of research methodology and creative exploration,” says Lee. Their work is a careful study of the interconnectedness of the biological world and the art that can be made from manipulating, extracting, and combining materials: “The process is very linked with scientific methods of inquiry, lots of experimentation and note taking combined with careful research.”
On the exhibition, Lee says, “The show centers around multiplicity and transformation, using textiles and biofabrication to reference the body through scale and intricate woven structures.” Viewers will explore the soft spaces between real and fabricated, imaginary and all too real.
Saucier mentions of the Coronavirus pandemic, “We exist in a society so dependent on consumerism that the urge to purchase goods and services has trumped the health and wellbeing of its own citizens.” It mirrors well with Lee’s statement on COVID-19 on the larger scale, “It’s hard to imagine anyone going unaffected by COVID-19. What an impacting and marker of history we are simultaneously experiencing.”
Both Saucier’s and Lee’s exhibitions explore and deepen the feelings we are all having at the moment. From the chaotic to the microscopic.
Caelin Lee – Multiplicity and the Body
Opening reception and presentation: June 6, 2020 6 PM
Gallery: June 6 – 14, 2020
Ben Saucier – Featured in ‘We Are All Contagious’
Opening Reception: June 11, 2020 6 PM
Gallery: June 1 – August 31, 2020
Free to attend