Jack Olson Gallery hosts ‘Writ Deep’ exhibition, artist-in-residence creates ‘Public Scribing’

Writ DeepNIU’s Jack Olson Gallery, housed in the School of Art’s Visual Arts Building, is hosting “Writ Deep,” an exploration of the relationship between craft and text as a unique affinity between forms.

Shannon Stratton is the guest curator.

Stratton is a writer and curator based in Chicago, where she founded and is current executive and creative director of threewalls, a not-for-profit visual arts residency and exhibition project space. She teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in fiber and material studies, art history, theory and criticism and arts administration.

Meanwhile, one of the Writ Deep artists – Michael Genovese – is serving as an artist-in-residence in the School of Art. Genovese is creating “Public Scribing,” a series of on-campus interactive drawing and writing workshops that explore narrative.

A closing reception for the exhibition is scheduled from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 23. All four artists and Stratton will attend the reception and talk about their work.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to noon Friday. For more information, contact gallery coordinator Peter Van Ael at (815) 753-4521 or pvanael@niu.edu.

“Writ Deep”
– excerpted from Stratton’s description

Rather than looking to the history of language art, “Writ Deep” is an exploration of the relationship between craft and text as a unique affinity between forms. Where the use of text in art has historically been to push the boundaries of the field – including operating as an anti-art form or advocating for an anti-aesthetic – text and craft share a longer history where text is anything but anti-craft.

Writ DeepCraft that employs text lends language a physicality: a tangible, as opposed to metaphorical, body. Craft and text is an obliging re-unification of body and mind as the abstract is made manifest both materially and methodologically.

In Writ Deep, the idea of an embedded text connects the work of Michael Dinges, Michael Genovese, Carol Jackson and Rebecca Ringquist whose processes of scrimshaw, engraving, leather-tooling, and embroidery and appliqué (respectively) are rooted in craft traditions. Each of these artists is invested in these forms as their chosen medium, as opposed to utilizing them strictly for a singular metaphor, and each employs text as a major mark in their work.

To embed something means to plant it firmly and deeply in surrounding mass. In the case of text and craft, the word is surrounded by material that supports, informs and contextualizes it in a way that the page alone cannot.

In a craft/text relationship, the material substrate becomes a body for the text to inhabit, not just a supporting surface. Through methodologies like engraving, etching and embroidery, text impregnates the material, creating a resolute bond that literally alters or changes the substrate through a kind of scoring or scarring of the surface – actions that call to mind a body as it might be scratched and scarred through use or through decoration. Scars are telling reminders of a body’s history; in the case of text, materiality and craft, the connection between method of incision and the substrate itself becomes one that is partially dependent on the material’s narrative and partially dependent on the narrative inherent to the process.

The artists in “Writ Deep” all work with a stylus so, in addition to their shared use of text and textual markings, their work could be described as drawing.

Text functions as both the written word as well as sign, a subject for a drawing that resides between the second and third dimension. Drawing text ties these practices to graffiti, diaries/sketchbooks and marginal notations, subjective forms of writing and reflection that are linked to craft because of its subjective and amateur associations. The melding of amateur craft forms, common materials and writing in each of these practices’ underlying political essence results in work that manages to avoid irony while still maintaining sharp wit.

“Public Scribing”

Genovese’s project invites audience participation to record the thoughts, perspectives and intuition of the American public – collecting, documenting and comparing data from different regions and cultures within the country.

Public ScribingThe choice of medium is drawing where text, form and material fuse unresolved compositions onto black aluminum plates through a graffito process. Through workshops and designated areas for mark-making, the surfaces collect social commentary, names and drawings that are then described in plain text and documented.

The documentation process includes invited local participants to transcribe the information on the plates in their native tongues. The text then is translated into various languages and scribed by the artist onto historically referenced plates that are mirror-polished.

For this project, Genovese performs as a modern-day scribe. The social commentary, handwriting analysis and descriptions of drawings allow him to attain a deeper understanding of the world around him.

“Public Scribbling” at NIU will include a number of blank aluminum plates with styluses throughout different common grounds on campus.

The integration of the students’ interests, points of view and expressions would be gathered onto surfaces that would then be re-introduced through artists’ workshops. Those workshops would include conversations and descriptions of the discovered markings that can become poetic reinterpretations, free-form drawings on the plates or voice recordings.

Final documentation will be added to the archive and collection of the project that will come to an end in 2012 and result in a traveling exhibition and catalogue.

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