Fish Creek, Wis. (November 26, 2021) – Peninsula School of Art (PenArt), 3900 County Road F, Fish Creek, presents a new exhibition, To the Letter: Text in Art, December 4, 2021 through January 29, 2022.
To the Letter features the works of seven regionally- and nationally-recognized artists, including Alison A. Gates (WI), Sean Latif Heiser (TN), Meg Hitchcock (NY), Leslie Roberts (NY), Nicki Shockz (IL), Melissa Wagner-Lawler (WI) and Chris Walla (MN). Artists Alison A. Gates and Nicki Shockz, and curator Crystal Chesnik, PenArt’s Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions, will present a gallery talk during the free opening reception on Friday, December 3, from 4 – 6 pm.
From cubists like Georges Braque collaging newspapers into their still lifes to draw attention to the flatness of the picture plane, to conceptual artists like Lawrence Weiner using language to emphasize ideas over visual forms, to Jenny Holzer’s Truisms confronting societal issues, visual artists have been widely using text since the beginning of the 20th Century.
To the Letter examines the different ways artists incorporate text today. Whether through sculpture or book art, illuminated manuscripts or abstract paintings that merge digital with handmade, the artists in their exhibition explore the ways text, image and contact interact to suggest new meanings.
Appleton artist Alison A. Gates embroiders words on vintage textiles. With thread colors carefully matched with those of the fabric, the text becomes as texture, the words camouflaged at first glance. Alison says, “I am interested in the way an image is changed when paired with text and how we assign language to visual experiences. In looking at vintage textiles I am struck by how the imagery meant something different when the images were printed for domestic consumers: symbols of security and aspiration or nostalgia. The stitchery activates the surface while the word activates a new train of thought about the printed image. Text, texture, textile and context all work in concert to move meanings.”
For artist Meg Hitchcock, the source of her text is as important as its final form. After leaving the evangelical church in her thirties, Meg began reading holy books from other religions in search of the replacement. As she recalls, “At some point the writings began to lose their edges, and I realized that they were saying the same thing. The varieties of religious expression are based in their cultural differences, but spirituality is a shared experience of the heart.”
She chose to “cross pollinate” the scriptures in her art, meticulously dissecting the text from one holy book and rearranging the letters to form the words of another. In her Illuminated Manuscripts series, she combines sacred texts with painting, drawing, sewing, and burning in a contemporary take on the ancient tradition.
Nicki Shockz, a young artist who recently spent a year creating art in a studio in Southern Door, explores the relationships between digital and handmade. Her densely layered abstract paintings include digital code. Nicki explains, “Digital art is a form of language. The symbols and imagery used in technology are meant to be simple; to communicate quickly and effectively, yet at the same time is a place where people can struggle to interpret meanings. I see opportunity for combining the digital and fine art, especially in the representation of digital code. I incorporate actual coding text from images into my work as a way to layer the same ‘image’ multiple ways in different forms of language.” To further layer meaning, Shockz uses many art mediums in her work, including painting, graphic design, and printmaking. This has allowed her to relate shape to the abstracted form of computer coding.
Peninsula School of Art is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the visual arts through education, exhibitions and accessible public programs. PenArt is located at 3900 County Hwy F, in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Summer and Fall hours (May-Oct) are Monday through Saturday, 8am-5pm. For more information about Peninsula School of Art workshops, exhibitions, and events, call 920-868-3455 or email info@PeninsulaSchoolofArt.org.