Hope, Journalism, Breathing, Organza

At Shift Gallery through May 26th.

Stephanie Hargrave

The overarching sentiment at Shift Gallery this month is one of hope. Even though there are three separate exhibits and four artists showing, the resounding message reflects a complicated set of circumstances that have negatives, no doubt, but end on a note of positivity and optimism.

Patrice Donohue has created a body of work by building dense structures through the accumulation of layer upon layer of newspaper stories. It is her attempt to create “a felt sense of the immensity of our collective experience and connection.” It is also a way of expressing her deep grief over the country’s renewed hatred during the Trump administration. Mending and sewing pieces of paper together has become her personal practice of hope – “of binding and mending us together” as she says. It also pays homage to the importance of journalistic integrity, and how it is so essential in these times. The words may be covered in a veil of black ink, but the surfaces created speak to the intrinsic connections these stories become for us all – one Donohue believes is “critical to maintaining our humanity and empathy for one another.”

Speaking of empathy, the exhibit entitled Exhale is equally complicated, but conveys hope in the face of stinging personal difficulties. Co-curated by Liz Patterson and Trevor Doak, it features the work of Ellen Forney and Clyde Petersen, and coincides with May’s month of Mental Health Awareness. The goal was to immerse the viewer in the art and minds of these two artists as it relates to their mental health experiences.

Forney took pieces of her graphic novels Marbles, Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me, and Rock Steady; Brilliant Advice from my Bipolar Life, and candidly installed them on the walls with vinyl, the latter detailing the importance of breathing. The simple but easily forgotten practice of breathing can so often be the catalyst to overcoming what feels like Insurmountable stress. It is a way of finding one’s balance. Having this spelled out for the rest of us on a wall becomes significant, especially when the lesson is being taught by a talented woman who happens to suffer from bipolar disorder.

Petersen recounts pieces of his childhood from his stop-motion film Torrey Pines, and fashioned it to feature a joyful, if terrifying trice, with hundreds of hand-constructed paper peers at a concert. The scene depicts a frightening moment during a trip with his schizophrenic mother. It was ultimately joyful even in the face of the serious mental illness that overlapped the experience. What you see is an infinite crowd of puppets, elatedly singing and doing their very own breathing exercises.

Perhaps breathing though life’s experiences is what everyone needs, whether confronted with personal struggles, mental or otherwise, or political situations, which are ultimately personal and psychological. The hope conveyed by this show is a testament to the importance of compassion in my estimation. If we continue to communicate, through journalism, dialog, writing, art shows, and a general fostering of understanding for anyone considered “other”, then we all might be more able to exhale beneficially.

Showing in the Shift Window is clothing designer Kara Mia Fenoglietto’s exhibit Transience, which explores anxious moments and emotions associated with impermanence, the temporary, and the fear of “what if.” It too relates to the overall themes of the work in the gallery, utilizing organza, cotton, and silk thread in a sculpture that depicts a state of detached depersonalization in the volume extending from the bodice of a garment.

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