Kehler Liddell Takes Five

Kim WestonThe sky is clear in Emitting. A dancer, hair cast in every direction, enveloped in the ghost images of feathers, is moving, moved, and about to move in a long exposure. Photographer Kim Weston has collapsed a long moment into a map of this dancer’s heat and spirit.

A park, abstracted by Joan Jacobson-Zamore, recedes into the pale blue of the distance. The trees are a crystal blue. A tiger is the bracing color of snow. There’s the impression of a walk and a building on the sinister edge. What could change a park scene, urban, temperate, solemn, into this striking image? It is playful and it is surreal. Is it winter? Was there a storm? Perhaps the storm is in us.

“Take 5,” running now until Aug. 26 at Kehler Liddell Gallery in Westville, welcomes five new members to the cooperative space — Weston, Jacobson-Zamore, Amanda Walker, Kate Henderson, and Brian T. Flinn — with an exhibit of their artwork.

For Henderson, the art in “Take 5” came out of a pertinent question: Does art have to mean something?

“A lot of what I do has to do with how you see, taking contours and lines with space and creating paths and journeys for people,” Henderson said. “I’m not an overly political person, but I started looking at my roots: being raised by a single mother, being very involved with the feminist movement.” She was also one of very few female students in her class at the Yale School of Art. “In Crossing the Pink Divide, at first it was a glass ceiling, but it became much more organic. A lot of my work is very organically informed,” she said. “So being a woman in our society, that’s what anchors me to saying how I view the world, but not just alone.”

Kate Henderson“I’ve been working a lot with seashells. I follow the whole path, doing a lot of wire sculptures, and trying to see how they work. That’s how the piece The Ocean as My Metaphor came about,” Henderson added. “I work with a lot of the elements and my own spiritual practice. We’re all related into our world. What does that mean to you? That’s what’s really strong to me.”

In Weston’s photography of Native American ceremonies, she wants to share a specific perspective. “I have native ancestry, and my wife is Native American,” she said. “My native ancestry is Mohawk, and my wife is Seminole from Florida. We raise the kids up in the Seminole culture, in their ways, and that’s my motivation. We go to pow wows up and down the East Coast every weekend. I have six kids, and they all dance, and they all are part of the culture, so I’m shooting at pow wows. I started out doing documentary photography, and I got teased in graduate school for being a National Geographic photographer, so I had to figure out a different way of photographing the pow wows.”

“This guy came up beside me,” Weston continued, “with the same camera, he was about my height, with the same lens, and he said ‘excuse me, can I get, I want to get in here and get this shot.’ And I’m like, you’re in my family area and you’re standing next to me and you’re stealing my shot!”

But the encounter led to some bigger questions. “I had to ask myself, ‘why am I here?’ I started looking deeper, and I’m there to connect with the Creator, to connect with family — the people at the pow wows become family — I went in to the next pow wow, and I decided I would start playing with my aperture and my shutter speeds, seeing if I can get more of the feeling of the spiritualness that I experience.

“When I shoot, I shoot in rhythm with the drum, I shoot in rhythm with the dancers,” she added. “Finally, playing with aperture and shutter speeds, I found a way to capture the movement, to capture the color, to capture the spiritualness…. These images are the result of that experience, a result of the guy with the camera, this random dude. This is the work that I’ve come to create.”

What motivated her to exhibit it?

“People really need to have more of an understanding of what the native culture is, and I wanted them to have a visual experience that’s closer to the experience that native people have,” Weston said. “When you’re dancing, you’re in a trance. You’re there for prayer, dancing in prayer. A lot of dancers can leave all their problems behind when they walk into that circle. You’re having a whole different experience, where you’re not carrying the weight of the world on you anymore. I wanted to create a visual experience for people, where they can witness some of that with these images. I made them big, so people can feel like they’re part of the image when they step up to it.”

Amanda WalkerAmanda Walker, a costume designer in the theater world, had a different personal journey to share through her art.

“I had been showing at open studios for the last several years,” Walker said. “I didn’t really know where to go.” She talked to Liz Antle-O’Donnell, Kehler Liddell’s gallery director, “and Kehler Liddell sounded like a really welcoming space, and it has been. That’s how I came to be here.”

What was it like to go from one creative professional world to another?

“Part of it is compounded by the fact that I’m older now,” Walker said. “When I started doing the theater, I was 18. You see how much getting critiques from your peers, help from your teachers, all of the things that help when you’re young — as an older person, I need[ed] to figure out a different way of going about this.”

Walker was also looking for ways to connect with other artists while pursuing her own practice. “Working in theater is such a collaborative process, and it’s a small world, and you work with the same people over and over again,” she said. “You never are doing your own work. You’re doing work for the director, for the piece as a whole, for the actors. It’s not really your own. You can say it’s my design, but it’s your design within the playwright’s vision.”

By contrast, she said, “doing art, one of the best parts of it is being in a quiet space with nobody’s input. I don’t have to figure out how something would come on and off on stage; I don’t have to imagine a real body in it, I can make it whatever I want, and that is really an incredible thing. That’s the biggest difference between the extroverted world of theater and the introverted process that is art.”

“Take 5” will be on display at Kehler Liddell Gallery, 873 Whalley Ave., through Aug. 26. On Wednesday, Aug. 22, at 7 p.m., there will be an open visual artists’ critique session for work in progress at the gallery. For more information visit the gallery’s website.

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