A few weeks back I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Director of the Carrack modern art gallery, Laura Richie, at Parker and Otis. We have had a long running conversation about intentionality in Art, community, and Durham, specifically. Richie is a brilliant and conscientious curator who raises the game of the artistic community in Durham without stepping on the toes of the individual artist in any way.
For those who don’t know the SOP: once selected for a show at the Carrack, artists are given the keys to the space and total control of their installation. One artist even elected to hoax close the gallery for a week as a faux exhibit. Others have painted on the walls. Richie and the Carrack curate Art, community, and Durham. Richie told me that the Carrack’s selection committee, which she is a part of, considers one of the most essential pieces of an artist’s proposal, “Why the Carrack? Why here? Why this space? Why Durham?”
I can only imagine after an hour listening to the fascinating Anna Wallace that she must have given outstanding answers to those questions. Wallace’s work is on display at the Carrack right now. And as always with the Carrack, hurry, hurry or you will miss it. Wallace’s artist talk is Saturday 12pm, noon. I highly recommend it.
The exhibit is called, “Superfluous Fowl.”
Wallace says the work and the exhibit are meant to invoke the spatio-temporality of literature. What at first might sound like graduate school gobbledygook is created Art space in a way that would only be possible in a unique, ‘give me the keys and total control’ setting like the Carrack.
Wallace’s work is nestled in a rarely explored confluence between curation and installation Art. It is neither and some of both.
Wallace received a rare post-undergraduate scholarship when she finished her degree in Ceramics at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She was given funding to travel and continue her studies. Among other places, she went to Paris.
In Paris she went to all the famous galleries, not only to study the works of Art within, but also the setting, specifically the architectural elements. Wallace told me that naturally Versailles was an important influence. And she said that she liked to think about the communication, the referential relationship, between the Classical, Baroque, and Rocco architecture she was seeing in France and it’s modern echoes at places like Home Depot and Jo-Anne fabrics.
I am not sure if she sees Jungian archetypes and mythos repeated in these motifs. But I know she thinks it important that people get to continue to have bits of that culture themselves, she thinks that these modern echoes are signifiers of human connection with their historical counterparts.
In France Wallace was always thinking about the Art in the setting. It is evident at the Carrack. One of her favorite off-beat museums in France was the Museum of Hunting and Nature, a Baroque home filled with taxidermy, where you could see things like polar bear heads mounted on walls covered in velvet wallpaper.
Wallace doesn’t go in for anything grotesque at the Carrack rather attempting to recreate elements of her childhood bedroom and reference classical childhood stories like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Part of Wallace’s work at the Carrack is the setting and then her Art work is installed within in that created space.
It is daringly postmodern. She says that she was influenced by Samuel Beckett, whom she read in a graduate class at Case Western Reserve that she was able to dip into, and she egged her father, a published fiction writer himself, into reading Beckett simultaneously so she could have an additional conversation partner.
Wallace reminds me of Milan Kundera and Gabriella Garcia-Marquez creating both the work and the story within the work. James Michener says if he were to instruct a young writer in the process, he would tell them to take ceramics so as to grasp constructing story out of the inchoate. Wallace, the ceramicist, focuses on the narrative effect on the perception of her work. She said, echoing Richie, that in many traditional museums the walls are lined and the viewer is expected to bop from one piece of art to the next with no more context than a notecard summary.
I know from experience that process in many a museum becomes viscerally overwhelming and numbing.
As an undergrad in Cleveland, Wallace told me she detested the pedestal as a display for ceramics for similar reasons. Despite the surprise registered by the art school faculty she preferred to display the pottery she created in a photograph showing the object in use.
At the Carrack it is if you are standing in a diorama, like the old shoeboxes we all used to make in elementary school, except that in Wallace’s faux imagined bedroom of the childhood she did not have in Paris. It is about the childhood she did have and her indecision, gluttony, and anxiety.
Which she considers her character flaws.
Although they were awfully hard to see sitting across from her at Cocoa Cinnamon watching her drop bombs of artistic philosophy that carved craters in the Swiss cheese that passes for my brain.
Her totem is the duck. And it is on display at the Carrack. Whimsically and thoughtfully.
To communicate the great myths of our childhood is to understand ourselves as adults. Wallace’s piece, “Duck, Duck, Superfluous” references the game “Duck, Duck, Goose,” which anyone who played will remember was all about anxiety filled indecision, tapping the heads of other elementary schoolers, “Duck. Duck. Duck. Duck. Duck,” the tension in the room building with each one and then finally, the “goose” and the sprint.
On another wall thousands of tiles were made with a single mold and a single screen, which eventually broke. Yet Wallace continued using it making what marks she could replicating life processes (entropy) with her artistic process.
Wallace knows whereof she speaks.
Would I buy her Art? That is a matter of taste.
There is no doubt I am enriched as person for having come to understand the way she creates.
Wallace also told me about a fascinating sound based performance piece she choreographed in Cleveland. She is thinking about recreating it and upping the ante at this year’s SmashFest. I will save the surprise and the rest of the story for my next conversation with this talented artist.
Again, highly recommended, Anna Wallace, “Superfluous Fowl” artist talk tomorrow at noon at the Carrack, #111 West Parrish Street. More information on their website here.