Periodically, we pose questions to artists about issues they face in their work and lives. This month, we asked, Is there a work in your portfolio that stands apart as being most unlike all the rest?
Sheila Gallagher, multi-disciplinary artist
Great question! Materially I am quite restive so a lot of my work bears little resemblance to other pieces in my portfolio. I think the same underlying themes of the workaday or tossed-off in relationship to the sacred, immanence and transcendence, etc., are always there but in a different guise or material manifestation (smoke, melted plastic, gold-leaf cigarette butts). Like siblings with dramatically different personalities who share the same family history and neuroses.
For my newest work I am assembling a collection of 789 small terracotta and concrete fragments of body parts. I invite friends over, and they model representations of their or their loved one’s physical or emotional ailments. So far we have a lot of eyes, breasts, and toes. It is perhaps the oddest and most collaborative addition to my portfolio, and the first time I have worked in clay since 4th grade. The project was inspired by a trip last spring to the antiquities section of the Fogg where I saw a perfect 2000-year-old little terracotta foot and wanted to know more. A little research revealed that the foot was typical of anatomical votives which were placed in ancient Greek and Roman temples dedicated to the healing gods. Medicine back then made a distinction between curing and healing, and concepts of “health” incorporated both the individual unconscious and the collective. I feel like this is a piece of lost wisdom. I guess I am mulling what role the art object might play in healing today?
Yorgos Efthymiadis, photographer
During World War II, my father was given a small handgun by his uncle – a guerrilla fighting the Nazis in the Pindos ranges in Greece – to protect the family. He was six years old. Although he was one of the liberators of Thessaloniki in late 1944, my father’s uncle was murdered by Greek traitors the following year. As for the handgun, it was treasured by my father; a family heirloom that was displayed on a pedestal for everyone to admire. I grew up having to look at this gun and I always felt uneasy around it, even though it was an obsolete relic.
This is what triggered the inspiration for the Domesticated: Seeing Past Seduction body of work, in which I photograph antique guns in the collectors’ living environment using pillows, rugs, tablecloths and other found objects as a background.
When guns are seen as antiques, their initial purpose is camouflaged. The viewer, allured and captivated, tends to overlook and forget the past, mesmerized by the guns’ fine craftsmanship, their artistry. Yet, just beneath the surface, their artistic presence is haunted by a past that cannot be changed.
Nicole Duennebier, painter
My drawing looks very different than my painting, and not in the way you might expect. You’d think that drawing in comparison to painting would be unrestrained and free but mine are restricted by some sort of rococo fetish. I’m very inspired by the subset of rococo called “rocaille” which sometimes looks like a busted up version of rococo. I think it’s traditionally supposed to be influenced by artificial grottoes in late Renaissance gardens. My favorite rocaille prints look more like a neglected grotto, using elements of entropy as the source of decoration.
Recently a friend asked if I’d ever considered combining my drawing and painting. I had a difficult time imaging what that would look like.
Photographer Yorgos Efthymiadis recently received a St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. His #welcomingimmigrants project was featured at the Somerville ArtBeat and Figment Boston festivals.
Sheila Gallagher is multi-disciplinary artist who has worked in many forms, including video, flower installations, smoke paintings, and computer-aided drawing. Her numerous exhibitions include The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and most recently, at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. The work depicted in this article will be shown as part of the solo exhibition “Gone Here” at September Gallery in Hudson, NY, opening October 28, 2017.
Images: two images of clay votives, in progress, by Sheila Gallagher; Yorgos Efthymiadis, UNTITLED #4 (2015) from the DOMESTICATED series, archival pigment print, 14×21 in; drawing by Nicole Duennebier; Nicole Duennebier, TUNICATE AND GOLDEN SAC (2014), acrylic on panel, 48×34 in.