Vault Project

Vault Project

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Aleta Braun, Magnolia Suite: Moon’s Face Darkens, 2006, mixed media on board.

Quirk Gallery
Richmond, Virginia
Lissa Hunter
April 4-26, 2008
Aleta Braun
May 1-31, 2008

In 2007, the Quirk Gallery inaugurated the Vault Project, in which an eight-by-nine-foot space-the Vault-tucked away behind the main exhibition area, is turned over to a curator or curators responsible for assigning a year's worth of one-month exhibitions to artists who they thought could best "exploit" the intimate brick-walled room. For 2008, Quirk invited Robert Ebendorf, distinguished professor of metalwork and jewelry at East Carolina University, and C. James Meyer, emeritus professor of craft and material studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, to curate the project. The two agreed on 12 artists without regard to medium and encouraged them to be experimental. Those chosen for April and May are known for mixed media.

The work Lissa Hunter normally makes is a combination of boxes or shelves mounted on the wall and objects-usually vessels-constructed through the basketry technique of coiling. Books, stones and tools may find their way into her pieces as well. The boxes and shelves delineate the space in which these objects live and relate to each other, but for the Vault, Hunter abandoned that format and is "exploring the space around and between the works and challenging the viewer's concept of where the space begins and ends." A work that plays with this theme is Bud, Lou and Monsieur Magritte , 2004, made of a chair, waxed linen, paper cord, paper and paint. The title refers to an Abbott and Costello movie, in which Bud and Lou are ghosts and objects disappear and reappear through the walls, and also to René Magritte, the master of manipulating the illusion of space. Hunter wanted to make the "negative" space of the Vault as interesting as the "positive" objects.

In her installation, Aleta Braun celebrates the Vault as a "mausoleum honoring the cycles of birth, flowering, death and regeneration." The underlying theme of her work is love and relationships, which she expresses by using natural materials, combined with drawings, paintings and collages that appeal to the viewer's ability to connect to the internal landscape. In works like Magnolia Suite: Moon's Face Darkens, 2006, Braun says, "I marry age-worn leaves, pods and petals to paper, giving new life to what is transforming. The ink drawings of flowers are observations of our connection to the blossoming aspect of nature." In different but equally resourceful ways, these makers have shown that by meeting the restrictions imposed on them with imagination and skill, "thinking small" has been no obstacle to the artistic realization of something big.