Wednesday, Dec 21, 2022 at 12:00 p.m.
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Newburyport, MA -- The PEG Center for Art and Activism is hosting a new exhibition that explores issues of race, culture and ecology through prints, paintings, multimedia sculptures, collars, vests, bags and moccasins. "Dream of a Common Language" highlights four emerging and established women artists whose voices ring out for common ground, common dreams, and ways to create common language with us all.
"This is the last exhibition of the PEG Center’s first year as a nonprofit. In curating ‘Dream of a Common Language,’ it seemed fitting that for we speak to and elevate the voices of artists who can help us explore and inquire about what that goal might be and how it might look. In the cacophony of voices, protesting for freedom and liberty to live as who we are, we are united," said PEG Center Executive Director Paula Estey.
The artists represented are wildly varied, from origins to experience. Lynn Allen, a professor at Boston University, brings artwork from her own exploration of her indigenous background and ancestors. Ameya Marie Okamoto is a young activist artist studying at the Chicago Institute of Art and Tufts University, whose digital portraits of people of color elevate voices and circumstances we so need to hear. Virginia Mahoney and Terry Rooney round out this extraordinary exhibition with mixed-media sculpture and installation that speaks to the home inside of us as women and the homes we create in the world.
"My inspiration was a compilation of poetry by Adrienne Rich, also titled ‘Dream of a Common Language.’ I remember so clearly reading that book in the ‘70s and feeling so changed by her views, her deep love of women, and feminism. I am grateful for her inspiration, and I’m humbled to bring you my view of a Common Language: May we aspire to it, may we accomplish it, may we not stop listening or speaking until it is finished," Estey added.
The exhibition includes work by:
Lynne Allen – Allen’s work has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally, and is included in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art Library, the New York Public Library, New York; the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., the Springfield Art Museum, Missouri, the Minneapolis Museum of Art, the Vesteros Kunst Museum, Sweden and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, as well as numerous corporate collections.
Her art making is a love affair with the forsaken. In material, this means the use of discarded remnants of culture, like rusted bottlecaps, fishhooks, lead sinkers and old moving blankets. It also embraces neglected traditions, such as the use of embroidery, beading, and woven porcupine quills. Taking center stage, her subjects are those whom history would rather leave out: animals that have become extinct, Native traditions, the homeless, prisoners and myths about how the west was won.
Her subjects act in concert with variety of non-traditional players. Sculptures include Native American text woven into arrow bags, moccasins, and wall hangings. Bullet casings, flattened bottlecaps and fish hooks may stud the surfaces in conversation with beading or embroidery. Prints use a variety of techniques including etching, woodcut and lithography in sizes from the intimate to very large. They aim to tell the stories of animals, the unloved, and victims of injustice.
The matriarchs in her family have all been members of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Allen can trace her Native heritage back six generations to Wastewin (Good Women) in the early 1800’s. As a visual artist, she incorporates the passions that drive her personally into a bigger reality—the world is full of threats and rewritten histories. Allen questions the history as it has been written by the victors. She seeks the voices of those who were left out, with the goal of creating a space where the viewer has a chance to imagine a world other than their own.
Virginia Mahoney – Mahoney is a mixed-media artist living and working with a variety of materials, making work that doesn’t easily fall into a neat category. Her ideas are often inspired or expanded through interaction with materials and process. Currently, she is working on a series of (non-wearable) vest forms, objects inspired by work uniforms that address obstacles and challenges. They embody self-doubt, uncertainty, or thoughts that hang in the background and weigh us down with questions, thwarted progress, and second-guessing. A vest might suggest protection, flotation, uniform, identification, accessory, warmth, or utility, but these vests are about struggle.
The vests, collars and dickeys comment on women’s experience of constriction and freedom. Her mixed-media sculpture references the body, reflecting upon sensation, reaction, and thought with her intricately rendered fabrications. Her objects play with language ambiguity, using text as a device to clarify or confound, to captivate with stories that are personal, yet communal.
After majoring in ceramics as an undergraduate at the University of Florida, Mahoney spent time as a Core Fellow at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina, then earned an MFA in ceramics at Cranbrook Academy of Art near Detroit, Michigan. Moving to the Boston area, she worked with functional, wood-fired ceramics for a few years. When she began teaching (public) high school art, her work evolved into large sculptural ceramic and mixed-media vessels.
Ameya Marie Okamoto – Okamoto is a dynamic 22-year-old artist and organizer from Portland, OR, who deconstructs social injustice and biased behavior through art. Using accessible materials like wheatpaste, permanent marker, spray paint, and posters from digital artworks, she curates workshops and art actions, creating opportunities for group healing through the collaborative processing of violence, memorialization, and generational trauma.
She was a finalist for the GLSEN Student Advocate of the Year award for her work implementing anti-bullying programs to protect marginalized students from targeted language in Portland Public Schools. Currently, she is an artist in the #BlackLivesMatter movement and community organizer with Black Lives Matter Portland, connecting with families impacted by racialized violence and creating digital illustrations that neutralize the negativity of outdated mugshots and images of humans unjustly killed.
Her work has been honored by the National YoungArts Foundation, US Presidential Scholars Program, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and featured in the Portland Art Museum, Williamson Knight Gallery, and US Department of Education.
Okamoto has a passion for social justice. She researches the role of protest art in social movements and sustainable beautification. She is the founder and creative director of IRRESISTIBLE, creating art for social change. Her work has been profiled by Paper Magazine, NPR and Hyperallergic among others. In 2018, she was announced a YoungArts Finalist in Visual Art and US Presidential Scholar in Art and was included in the NY Post's top 6 rising art stars at Miami Art Basel. She is a 2019 Adobe Creativity Scholar, 2020 Laidlaw Research Fellow, and the recipient of a 2022 Project for Peace Grant.
Terry Rooney – Rooney exhibited at the PEG Center for Art & Activism earlier in 2022 as part of the "Wear Orange: Artists Unite Against Gun Violence." Her broken mirror sculpture reflected her experience as a victim of gun violence, and her other sculptures, created during the pandemic, use the concept of home to comment on the pandemic and social justice.
Born in New York City in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, it has been an artistic inspiration to her all her life. Vanishing Liberty is a series that addresses democracy and freedom. She holds an associate’s degree in art and illustration from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s of art degree from SUNY Empire State College. Her artwork is in galleries and museum nationally and internationally including Brooklyn Museum, Berkshire Museum and San Francisco Center of the Book.
In addition to her own work as a painter and printmaker, Rooney is an active independent curator. As a longtime chair of the Amherst Public Art Commission, she created and produced the 2010 and 2012 Amherst Biennial exhibitions, which included installations at five museums, three colleges and 20 sites.
Date: Nov. 5 through Dec. 31, 2022.
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