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Piecing Together the Crown of Rays

By Joey Yates

Editor’s Note: KMAC Curator Joey Yates led the committee of art professionals who selected the twenty artists for this year’s KMAC Triennial, and worked with each artist over a six month period to help develop and refine their Triennial submissions.  In this post he discusses the exhibition themes that emerged organically from that process.

After the jury selected the artists for the first KMAC Triennial, I visited their studios to learn more about their process and to discuss work specifically for the exhibition. Though some artists had already begun production on new artwork prior to our meeting, others were looking for inspiration and dialog, with some artists even making trips to the museum in order to generate ideas that could better respond to the site. Over time, as conversations and proposals developed, general themes within the Triennial began to emerge, which prompted the ultimate layout of the galleries. 

Some of the topics that surfaced during the planning phase of the show revolved around issues of displacement from war and other conflicts that beset the migrant experience. Vian Sora, Vinahy Keo and Kiptoo Tarus have each made work informed by the journey from their home country to their new home here in the United States. Harry Sanchez, Jr. likewise deals with the current migrant crisis, but with a focus towards his hometown of El Paso, Texas, an area that shares a border with Juárez, Mexico and has been the focus of recent social and political unrest. Sean Starowitz locates his work around another form of ethnic trauma, which concerns the current debate around the removal of public monuments that for many American citizens are markers for the preservation of white supremacy.  

Lori Larusso, Kristin Richards, and Elizabeth Mesa-Gaido explore domestic space, but from drastically different material perspectives and personal viewpoints on the connected matters of economic class, consumerism, and consumption. 

Philis Alvic and Bette Levy both engage with traditional textile practices, but they also both examine the gendered histories of their work and how this applies to our current culture of transition with respect to identity and labor. 

Ceramicist Hunter Stamps transforms clay into mutating anatomical shapes that tap into our collective corporeal tensions, while painter John Harlan Norris turns the spectral quality of our personal data into a subversive form of portraiture inspired by the early digital aesthetics of 1980s pop culture. Jimmy Angelina also makes references to pop culture in his series of drawings inspired by vintage, mid-century design and illustration, as well as by classic cinema and DIY punk flyers. 

Rachel Frank and Andrew Cozzens are both addressing our current ecological crisis with human responsibility and interference underpinning the construction and reception of their work. 

Mary Carothers and Melissa Vandenberg reimagine the animal form as symbol and metaphor for the human experience. All four artists contemplate how animals can perhaps guide the way to a more shared and compassionate existence on Earth.    

The connective tissue between Casey James Wilson’s practice based in photo, Sarah Lasley’s in video and Aaron Rosenblum’s in sound, is a motivation to allow their respective mediums to occupy an art context separate from their standard uses. While Lasley makes references to movies and music videos, she doesn’t rely on the common narrative devices that define our typical experiences with such forms of mass entertainment. Rosenblum and Wilson both contend with the ubiquity of sound and photography in contemporary culture, resituating how we’re commonly confronted - or bombarded with - noise and image pollution, prescribing new ways to listen and see the world around us. 

The artists in the Triennial are united by their association with Kentucky, therefore the title of the exhibition was inspired by the official state flower, the Goldenrod. More specifically, the cultivated Goldenrod plant, the Crown of Rays, was called upon to not only symbolize their unity, but also their ability, like the Crown of Rays from saintly iconography, to radiate the human values of beauty, devotion, love, adaptability, intellect and wisdom. 


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