For Arts Walk, Olympia’s oldest and newest galleries are hosting curated exhibitions that bring together artworks with intention. The shows, at venerable Childhood’s End and tiny upstart CaTMA, aim not just to display art but also to become art.
“This Old World” at Childhood’s End breaks new ground in several ways. Curated by artist Marilyn Frasca and filmmaker Sally Cloninger, “World” is the first show at the 50-year-old gallery to include video, and it will be the first time Cloninger will show her experimental short films in Olympia.
The films, Frasca’s drawings and the other work the couple chose for the show — paintings by Susan Aurand and Susan Christian and collages by Gail Ramsey Wharton — all inhabit the same world even as each artist’s work reflects her own worldview.
At CaTMA (an acronym for Contemporary and TransModern Arts), “Hard/Soft” is an exhibition of mixed-media and found-object sculpture by Travis Johnson and gallery owner/curator China Faith Star. “The show is about our works in conversation,” Star said. As the title suggests, the exhibition explores ideas about masculinity and femininity through objects associated with them.
Since the relationship among the works is key to both shows, an element of mystery will remain until the shows open, Frasca, Cloninger and Star agreed. Meanwhile, OLY ARTS brings you the story behind the shows.
“This Old World”
“Somebody said to me, ‘Why don’t you just call it Five Old Women?’ ” Frasca said, laughing. “We’re all over 70. … We’ve all lived in Olympia, and we’ve all created these worlds in our work.”
Of course, the title doesn’t refer to the age of the artists, all well-known and well-respected. Rather, the show takes its name from one of Cloninger’s evocative short films. The two-minute “This Old World” evokes a sense of wistful wonder with moving images of water and weather, globes and maps, often overlaid with glimmering dots. “I wouldn’t call it nostalgia, but it’s a memory,” Cloninger said. “During this period, a lot of things I took for granted are no longer the case.”
Water, taken from footage she shot on her travels, runs through many of the films Cloninger will show in a temporary screening room in a corner of the gallery, “It is important to exhibit her artwork as she intended it to be presented,” said gallery manager Jonathan Happ. “While her work is not for sale, it is an integral part of the concept of the exhibit.”
Indeed, “This Old World” is at the center of it — the words as well as the images. The title of the film just felt right, Cloninger told OLY ARTS. “I think it was a combination of a feeling of ‘this old world is gone forever’ and ‘this old world is an interesting place,’ ” she said. “The question is: What comes next?”
“This Old World” is also the title of one of Aurand’s paintings, in which a moth flies above a framed compass, set against a stormy and perhaps even apocalyptic background. “It was originally untitled,” Aurand said. “When Marilyn told me about the idea of doing a show on the theme of ‘This Old World,’ I knew that was the title of the painting.”
Water runs through many of the films that will be shown in a temporary screening room in a corner of the gallery, is a part of many of the works Cloninger and Frasca chose. Sea and sky are perennial fascinations for Christian, whose home was flooded in one of December’s king tides. Her “Pier” shows the posts of a ruined pier in one corner of a blue expanse.
Insects are another recurring element. There’s a monarch butterfly in one of Frasca’s drawings, in which figures seem to arise from a collective unconscious, and a “River of Bees” in one of Wharton’s surrealist collages.
“We are trying to hang the show so the pieces echo off each other,” Cloninger said. “This is not just a group show. This is an experiment.”
“What excites me … is placing artwork together to create a larger dialogue,” said Star, who’s curated several two-artist shows since opening CaTMA in October. “This is a challenge when it comes to placing work that can sit together and speak to this greater connection without diffusing or overshadowing each individual voice.”
“Hard/Soft” came together when Star asked Johnson, whose work explores the cultural narratives associated with objects, to show at CaTMA. He saw some of Star’s sculpture, using found materials and saw a relationship between it and his own and suggested that the two show their work together. “Travis identified the other work, my own, as the missing piece,” Star said in her curatorial statement.
The exhibition will explore the complications with traditional binary gender roles, she said. She described her current work, including an elephant-like sculpture made mostly of egg cartons, as “a conceptual exploration of what it is to be considered discardable.”
“The feeling of being less valued is a psychological battle experienced by all genders presenting physically or through personality as traditionally feminine,” she told OLY ARTS.
“When I work with found objects, I am preoccupied with the pre-narratives that are bound up with a given object or the combination of objects,” said Johnson, whose sculptures include a boxing glove atop a hammer. “I am asking the objects to … hold different narratives.
“These objects are tools of a trade that is connected to violence, labor, Blackness and culture,” he said. “I am asking these objects to hold a personal history and a Black ontological placement. I am also asking the objects to be art and to be beautiful and to not be concerned with any assumptions.”
7-9 p.m. April 27 for artists, 6-10 p.m. April 28, noon-6 p.m. April 29; on view through May 20 (open hours vary, so check online)
CaTMA Gallery, 416 ½ Washington St. SE, Olympia
International Jazz Day concert, 8 p.m. April 30. $20.
“This Old World”
5-9 p.m. April 28, noon-6 p.m. April 29; on view through June 11
Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia