"The Onyxed Goat" at 118 Gallery Explores a Young Couple's Life & Art
Artists Laura Jane Walker and Justin A. Kenney, newcomers in search of a 'rougher Winter' in Brattleboro, will open their first collaborative multi-media show at 118 Gallery (118 Elliot Street, Brattleboro) with a public reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. during Gallery Walk on September 7, 2018. The show will remain up through October 1. Gallery hours are otherwise on Saturdays from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m.
The couple, who moved to Brattleboro from Oregon, speak openly of the challenges of an art partnership, how they are at times like chefs in a small kitchen. "We taste and play and try new things," Walker says. "We challenge each other to discover new ways to make the basics all while being in love with the simplicity of a single ingredient, like an apple in season, fresh from the tree."
"We wanted to get locked in the studio all winter long," Walker says. "Brattleboro offers us a quality of life that we are very grateful for, a thriving art community with a beautiful backdrop, and we are lucky to have made many great friends."
Walker has mystical leanings, often starting her work by looking through the I-Ching for inspiration. She was born in Oregon and lived there and in New Mexico throughout her childhood. In 2010, she received her Bachelor's degree in fine art, with a focus on sculpture, from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and has had numerous exhibitions in Portland, Oregon; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Chester, Vermont.
For the past few years, Walker has carved elaborate forms, incised into pine boards. The perimeter of the frame is embedded with inumerable, shining, silver-headed brads, which read like braille or stars, catching light and communicating as if in secret code. Threads are twined between the nail heads as if on a great loom, another linguistic component that brings cohesion to the composition and adds layers of meaning. "I try to work carefully and with positive energy as I go," she says, and indeed this work glows.
"I never saw shellac until I saw Laura do it," Kenney says. This statement is less prosaic than it might seem, given the context: two artists who share every aspect of making their work down to the constituent parts. Both artists are drawn to materials with an implied history, be it an old, scratched-up chair, or rusted metal. "Each piece we make carries a lesson so the work evolves, waxing with new techniques, then waning to keep it fresh," Kenney says.
A sculptor by trade, Kenney in particular revels in surfaces that convey a mineral alchemy. The two-dimensional work featured in this show favors the angular and architectural. There is always the suggestion of design—be it arbitrary, as in a steel yard, or with the purposefulness of the drafting table. Originally from Boston, Kenney studied and worked with Southern Vermont oil painter Eric Aho. In 2007, Justin moved to Portland, Oregon, to pursue a degree in printmaking from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. During this time he had numerous solo exhibitions. While attending college, Justin also interned with Oregon sculptor Lee Kelly.
"As the rust crawls beneath the paint and pushes it off, like notions of success we carry in our heart, this exhibition breaks away ideas of painting and sculpture to reveal the interwoven history of our lives together in the studio," Kenney writes in the artists' notes accompanying the exhibition.
"We at 118 Gallery are excited about this show," gallery director Lisa Mendelsund says. "Brattleboro has many riches as an art community. Where it occasionally fails is in showcasing the more avant-garde work of its rising art stars. 118 Elliot and 118 Gallery give a home to such talents, for it is through exposing ourselves to the challenges and inspirations of the wider community of makers that we all grow."
Save the date for the duo's ARTIST TALK on Sunday, September 30, at 11:00 a.m. in the gallery.
Copyright 2018, Gallery Walk, Brattleboro, Vermont