Wonderful things can happen when two artists collaborate, particularly when those artists work within different mediums. Such is the case with Timothy Callaghan and Valerie Grossman in Some Kind Time, now on view at River Gallery.
Like a game of badminton, Grossman and Callaghan serve and return color and light within the realm of paintings and ceramics. Blues, oranges, yellows and gold dominate the gallery.
"The idea to work/show together came pretty organically," says Callaghan, whose classroom is next door to Grossman's at Lake Ridge Academy. "I asked if I could use whatever objects she was going to make as props in a series of still-life paintings. We started talking about this project back in the fall when Val started teaching at the academy. We thought it would be a unique opportunity since we were working right next door to each other every day to make a body of work that we could give and receive feedback in real time."
The result reads like a "chicken or the egg" debate; it's hard to tell if the ceramics came first or if they were a response to the paintings. "I found that while collaborating with Tim I really learned a lot about mark making, especially in painting," says Grossman. "I believe looking closely at Tim's work really influenced the way I thought about the surface decoration of my pieces."
Grossman is influenced by vintage design and patterns and her work reflects as much. Light, airy fish-scale motifs that look like crowns adorn the center area of the gallery. Deep blues and oranges magnify a technique that we've not seen before. "I am using under-glazes for my surface decoration. I use a spray application for the ombre effect," Grossman says. "Without a clear glaze, and on top of bright white porcelain, the result is a vibrant, matte surface." These are exhibited on their own, as well as like cages surrounding other ceramic works. It almost looks like alien flowers blooming from the pedestals that support them.
Along the perimeter, Callaghan has paintings that mirror the vessels displayed before them; such is the case with "Sower," where he has grouped the ceramic work within a bright still life. On the facing wall, we see single portraits and their inspirations, the painter adding even more life by inserting flora into the ceramics. "In some of the still lifes, I would create a textile based on Val's object that I could set up and paint from observations. In others I would respond only to the form of the object and imagine or invent the negative space in the image."
The artists repeat taches throughout the exhibition, those wonderful brush strokes that create movement in the paintings and on the ceramic work. "Poet" is created with gouache, a water-based medium that is more opaque than watercolors. Here the painter repeats the deep blues and oranges in Grossman's fish-scale patterned pieces. The aforementioned taches undulate through a river that runs adjacent to a graffiti-riddled concrete abutment. "The small river painting 'Poet' as well as the other river paintings came midway in the body of work," Callaghan reveals. "I wanted to also do some landscape paintings with the subject of water and explore pattern-like mark making that would complement the mark making Val was using. I was also drawn to the subject of rivers, creeks and streams as a metaphor for the process of collaboration and working within a community environment."
The working environment has offered Grossman a foray into more functional ceramics, whereas her work has been mostly sculptural. In her statement, the artist informs us that, "This body of work speaks to the creative play and unexpected connections that come with making art and is connected to the setting that we are in. The environment changed things for me. It gave me a space to concentrate, teach, be inspired, and create. There is something to be said for the working artist."
"Some Kind Time" is a joyfully engaging exhibition of color, water, air and light, and our mood was lifted after having experienced it. We look forward to more artist collaborations like this one.