When you walk into At Liberty this month, you'll notice a long, paper cut-out on the ceiling, guiding you into the space. The piece, created by artist Lauren Iida, is like a beautiful upside-down picnic table, or a net of memories cascading from the ceiling. It's delicate and enchanting—a perfect welcome into this wonderful group show filled with memory and magic and the honoring of the feminine.
Figuratively Speaking is the first group show exhibition at At Liberty. It features female artists including Paula Bullwinkel, Anna Fidler, Jennifer Hirshfield, Lauren Iida, Alexis Day and M.V. Moran. (Iida's work was featured on the cover of the March 14 issue of the Source, when the show opened.)
"While the six female artists of Figuratively Speaking work in distinctly different mediums and styles, their work is united by their quest to honor what is most valuable to them: their memories and relationships, personal strengths and their heroes," says Jenny Green, co-founder of At Liberty Arts Collaborative.
The hero aspect is seen in the work of Anna Fidler of Corvallis, whose large-scale portraits of rock icons feel partly like psychedelic rock posters and part like topographical maps. The icons Fidler chose are personal to her, because, as explained in her artist statement, they're female artists she grew up admiring. One icon was the lead singer of Blondie.
"Specifically, I remember seeing Debbie Harry surrounded by her black, leather-clad male band mates on the interior record jacket of her album, 'Eat to the Beat.' I loved that she was pretty and could both rap and sing great lyrics—but most of all I liked that she was the only female in the band. This seemed important to me."
The personal comes into a different light when you see Paula Bullwinkel's work. Bullwinkel's paintings feature family photos she's taken, as well as found vintage family photographs her mother took in the '60s and '70s, showcasing memory in an intriguing way. As Bullwinkel is great at capturing the era of her childhood, each painting feels retro. They also have a mystical and surreal feel—as if you're looking at a bigger story and waiting for it to unfold. They become both dreamscapes and memories at the same time.
Bullwinkel says the work is inspired by, "Trying to figure out my childhood and thinking about my mom who passed away about a year ago. She did not take many photos at all, but she took those. So, I was working things out, my own working through memories—it was helpful (in the grieving process). It is very healing to look at this stuff."
The bringing together of these artists results in a show that's eclectic and meaningful. There's delight in the subject matter as well as the variety of approaches. Each artist offers a way to understand the experience and perspective of women, while never limiting the scope of how that should look or what stories are important to tell.