In 2004, Martha Stewart was convicted of conspiracy, obstructing an agency’s process and making false statements to federal investigators, which resulted in her being jailed for five months. She is also an unexpected influence for some of the pieces seen in Allegheny’s latest art gallery, “Prune After Bloom”.
The name of the gallery itself comes from a saying that Stewart herself advocates killing old flowers in a garden to encourage new growth. The gallery opened on September 27 at the Doane Hall of Art.
“‘Prune After Bloom’ brings together artists who explore the gendered power dynamics that link desire, technology, bodies and lived environments,” explained a leaflet available at the event.
The work of three artists was featured at the gallery: art duo Barrow Parke, photographer and performance artist Trisha Holt, and Heather Brand d’Allegheny, assistant art professor.
Barrow Parke is a New York-based artist duo made up of Mark Barrow and Sarah Park.
âBarrow Parkeâ¦ really (thinks) about this story of representation and desire, and they designed this wallpaper for the show, and it conjures up handprints on the cave walls, so the very first representation is desire. to infringe this indicial trace of your own presence on a wall â, Assistant art history professor Paula Burleigh spoke about one of the duo’s pieces appearing as wallpaper behind some of their other works.
âThey have these big bulbous lines that look like finger swipes, and they start by doing them as digital designs on an iPad,â Burleigh said. âSo they draw on the iPad in action, it’s kind of like those first (cave) handprints; just like this desire to mark with the hand, it is really essential in a way. Then they translate them into a program that puts them in a loom, then it’s woven and then they paint on the surface of the weave, so it’s a really complicated process that goes back and forth between analog and digital. digital to the point that they are totally nested.
The Barrow Parke pieces chosen for this gallery dealt to some extent with the idea of ââdesire, especially for the female form as seen in the other wallpaper which depicts a sort of paving of disembodied female legs, referencing with irony to the old adage “She’s all legs.” âHowever, their work was not the only art in the exhibition that dealt with ideas of desire.
Trisha Holt’s art was produced by taking internet images of different objects and pasting them in her studio before rephotographing them with living bodies, juxtaposing those real bodies with these images of objects and things. This blurs the line between what is real and what is made in internet spaces while simultaneously contrasting the real with what is made online, which can be seen in the way objects are presented with pixelation and distortion.
Brand’s contribution to the gallery is reflected in nine of her photographs which are part of the series she calls âClose Enoughâ.
âMy process for this specific job was watching lawn care videos on YouTube or old reruns of Martha Stewart Living by Martha Stewart and other miscellaneous interviews she’s doneâ¦ My job generally deals with containment. natural environments or those constructed worlds that we exist inside and have the kind of limitations and these worlds become our new normal. And so I started playing around with that idea and generally I would go to natural history museums and botanical gardens which are a little more obviously built or constructed environments that are meant to contain. (However) these photographs are all taken against a screen. In some cases I have two or three screens at a time like a tablet, phone, and computer, and a lot of them are time-lapse or long exposure photographs, which actually means I’m on playing a video, or maybe a few videos at the same time and leaving that shutter open to create a fuzzy or more complex layered aestheticâ¦ I just think that kind of interaction was really, really interesting and that it There’s such a wealth of information online, and they got me thinking of this mediation, where it’s a very literal screen mediation, âBrand said.
Brand’s contribution to the gallery was created during the pandemic and dealt with very familiar ideas of existing in a confined world, due to lockdown, and experiencing the outside world primarily through screens. The other artists also had works created during the pandemic.
âI don’t think there is a return to normal, I don’t necessarily want to suggest that this is all pandemic work,â Burleigh said. âFor example, Barrow Parke’s paintings range from 2015 to 2017, while the wallpaper is from 2021, so some of these works are pre-pandemic. The range of Trisha’s works, some were made this year during the pandemic, some before others were all made during the pandemic, they are all in the summer of 2021, âsaid Burleigh.
There is variation in the degree of engagement of each artist’s work in the pandemic, but the focus is on the domestic sphere through the art of the exhibit.
âSince we (all) probably spent more time than usual in our domestic sphereâ¦ the economy shut down, we couldn’t go to work, that sort of thing,â said Burleigh. âBut I think, you know, I mean in terms of getting back to normal, I’m glad that we can once again open openings in person. Hope we can offer free wine again soon. It’s not a reality at the moment, but I’m very happy that members of the public can come back because we have, you know, last year, we can only open it to visitors from Allegheny and it’s really important to me that the function of the gallery is kind of a cultural space to which everyone around has access. So it’s a really good change, so I don’t think we’re back to normal, but we’re getting there, which is exciting.
âPrune After Bloomâ is on view from September 29 to November 13, with a panel discussion of virtual artists on Tuesday, October 12, from 5:30 pm to 6:45 pm.