Artists Reclaim Orange

Molly GambardellaA burnished ornate candle holder stands beside a small Buddha balanced on a saffron paperback titled Love. Behind it, a vase erupts with gentle orange tulips. A plastic orange basket supports a slab of hardwood with a small painted alligator’s head. More pensive paperbacks share a plastic orange cutting board with another case of tulips, copper cups, an orange, and a candle. Beneath, there is a profusion of orange berries and petals in an orange wicker basket, resting beside a box of markers and pens: all siennas, vermillions, golds. This Titian tableau is an introduction to the idea that, as the title of a new art exhibit at Lotta Studio states, nothing rhymes with orange.

In a partnership between West River Arts and The Range at Lotta Studio, 20 artists are taking part in “Nothing Rhymes with Orange,” which has its opening reception on Saturday, Aug. 11 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lotta Studio on Whalley Avenue. It runs through Aug. 24.

Sarah Schneiderman“Nothing Rhymes with Orange is synonymous with the ridiculousness of everything right now,” said Mistina Hanscom of Lotta Studio. “We’re reclaiming the word orange in the name of art, taking it back from the political space.”

Molly Gambardella, one of the participants, is a local artist who recently exhibited in Kehler Liddell Gallery’s “How with this Rage shall Beauty hold a Plea?” As with the KLG show, Gambardella explained, for “Nothing Rhymes with Orange,” artists were prompted with “a common theme, and artists brought what their interpretation of what they thought that meant, which then made it so diverse and beautiful.”

Gambardella called her sculpture “a lichen” inspired by the sunburst orange lichen she saw in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, though “I like to leave the interpretation open.”

Susan McCaslin of local graphic design firm Design Monsters has a three-dimensional hanging sculpture in the show. McCaslin’s colleague at West River Arts, Martha Savage, remarked that McCaslin used orange plastic caution fencing with dyed newspaper clippings in a whimsical fashion to create the piece. Savage emphasized that this application of material out of context reflected the core ethos of “Nothing Rhymes with Orange”: that in our collective psyche, orange is a signal of danger, but it could be a signal of joy.

Martha SavageSavage herself has a large painting and several orange greeting cards in the show. “There’s a lot of pattern in this show, from that lichen, concentric patterns,” she said. “My piece has pattern to it, alternating bands of color, and Susan’s has pattern in it. Pattern makes people feel comfortable, and there’s a reason for that. You feel comfortable because it is familiar, you know what to expect because it repeats itself. It’s comforting. I wanted to do something with patterns, safe comforting patterns.”

With the color orange?

“Well, I love the color orange. It is by far my favorite color. I look around and I see things that have pattern and are orange.”

For Gambardella “the reason for creating” art was “just basic survival…. In our crazy hectic lives, art is what I found gets me through any day. Some part of it has to be creating, exploring, playing to feed my soul.”

“I like working with things that people can relate to,” she continued, “but in a context that’s not necessarily what they’re used to. I like people being surprised and then having a conversation…. I like playfulness. It doesn’t have to have irony; for me, I take a material and then I play.”

In creating the piece for “Nothing Rhymes with Orange,” she said, “seeing everyone’s reaction, whatever made me happy doing, seemed to make other people happy, which was so rewarding.” She considered her art “a celebration of life. It’s a meditative process for me to do my work, methodical, repetitive, and then the final thing is very bold like fractal patterns. It’s a metaphor: take things one thing at a time, take things slowly in your life, and you can do something with that.”

What prompted Gambardella to start this way of methodical creation?

“When I started this process was in high school,” she said. “I had an eating disorder and no one knew about it, and finally people did know about it and I got put in hospitals, and in battling it, you really find that one day at a time, one thing at a time, one stressor at a time, you can only deal with one thing at a time. You can’t put that all on yourself at the same time. Like I didn’t know this lichen was going to be five feet by five feet, but it just happened because one petal at a time turned into that big thing; taking it one thing at a time and then you can step back and say I’m almost one year sober. That’s really where it comes from.”

For Savage, making art “is just a necessity. It’s just like breathing and eating, it’s what makes you happy. Making art is part of the whole picture: eating well, making art, getting enough sleep, going for a walk, making art.”

“Nothing Rhymes with Orange” runs at The Range at Lotta Studio, 911 Whalley Ave., from Aug. 11 through Aug. 24. There is an opening reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 11, immediately following the Second Saturdays Open Studios upstairs at West River Arts, 909 Whalley Ave.

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