CaTMA Gallery’s Group Exhibition Explores Intimate Conversation Through a Unique Creative Process

by Molly Walsh

Described as a “response to the concept of intimate conversation,” CaTMA (Contemporary and Transmodern Arts) Gallery’s group exhibition, Pillow Talk, will explore this theme not only through paintings on display, but also through elements of mystery that shroud the creative process. And few in the public will know all that is contained within the Pillow Talk exhibition until evening descends on downtown Olympia on Fall Arts Walk weekend.

CaTMA – photo from a previous exhibit.

CaTMA Gallery curator China Star hand-picked local artists to participate in this experimental exhibition. Intentionally choosing creatives with different backgrounds and art styles, Star was curious how these artists might interpret a common concept.

“I like to curate artists who maybe don’t already know each other,” said Star. “Or, like small groups from different communities of artists, because we have a pretty diverse and broad scene where it’s not always overlapping with the same people.”

Star describes CaTMA Gallery as taking on a museum-like approach to a gallery environment.

And the gallery’s interior transforms to accommodate each exhibit. And since the gallery’s beginning, Star wanted to craft a conceptual art space that didn’t already exist in the community, providing a unique opportunity for local artists to display their work.

“All of our exhibits and everything that we’re doing there is very much…as structured as it needs to be to actually accomplish what its goals are,” said Star. “It is also very free form and really creating a space for artists to kind of have their work shown in a way that’s like, elevated beyond what we have the opportunity for a lot of times in our area.”

Pillow Talk is set to be CaTMA Gallery’s 10th exhibition. During previous shows, Star said it has been common for the gallery to showcase the work of two separate artists whose work can inspire space for conversation. And Pillow Talk explores the idea of works in conversation to a much larger scale. When developing the concept for Pillow Talk, Star crafted a system where each participating artist was given brief directions and the necessary supplies to create a painting or art piece around the theme of intimate conversation. The completed pieces are set to be available for public viewing during Arts Walk.

“I’m very excited about it, particularly because we have artists that have been artists in this area for a long time,” said Star. “We also have artists that have not been here that long but really like, inserted themselves on the scene. And we have also a very broad range of demographic artists and also a very broad range of ages within the demographics.”

CaTMA Gallery PILLOW TALK exhibit sign.

Following this creative process means that the show’s pieces won’t be completed until September and because of that relatively tight creative timeline, not many members of the public will know what to expect ahead of the exhibition.

“Every artist involved was very, very open and amenable to…the whole mystery of the process,” said Star.

A major question posed ahead of Pillow Talk’s opening: how to market an exhibition that has such a mysterious creative process? Star said after all the final art pieces have been submitted, each artist will receive a press kit from the gallery containing basic details about the show, a flier and a photograph of their individual piece so they can promote their work ahead of the show. But for the most part, many of the artists have been unaware of who else has created pieces for the show.

With around a dozen artists participating, a “painter’s dozen” according to Star, there is an expectation that there will be different interpretations of the theme of intimate conversation, with Star including artists who have a mix of illustrative and abstract styles.

“I asked some people whose work is naturally a lot more like, illustrative because…that led to some potential of them being able to riff on the theme in a more illustrative way,” said Star. “But…all the artists are not like, a similar style of art. Some artists are completely abstract and I have no idea what I’m going to get back from them on this theme.”

Star is also curious about the response from participating artists after all of the show’s final works have been submitted. Star said it will be interesting how the pieces will work together, or in contrast within the exhibit and a question still remains how or if participating artists will want to be involved in the creating the layout of the final exhibition. And through that potential collaboration, whether a sense of community can be formed from that process.

“What really excites me about getting all the work back, just like as a curator who set this mystery in motion, is I’m just really excited to see the community that can build out of putting this many artists together in this concept,” said Star.

The ideas around Intimate conversation can take on many forms and Star said it has even started to take shape during the creative process. And as artists explore this concept in the work itself, Star believes the theme of this exhibition can also extend beyond the canvas.

“Just the conversation that artists have to the work that they’re producing, that in its own right is an intimate conversation,” said Star. “And so I thought that, you know, discussing something like that, that we don’t really actually talk about that much in our society.”

Pillow Talk, a group show on the theme of intimate conversation

Friday, October 6, 4-9 p.m., Saturday, October 7, noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, October 8, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

CaTMA Gallery 416 1/2 Washington St SE Olympia

Free admission


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