Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An Exhibit You Don't Want to Miss

My son's art teacher, Jenny Eggleston of Egg in Nest Studio,  had not one, but two, art exhibit openings in downtown Raleigh last week, and we were able to go to both.  Both were really interesting and valuable in their own ways, and both exhibits are definitely worth going to see.  But the latter one, which is on exhibit this month at ArtSpace, was such a unique and powerful show that if you are in the area, you owe it to yourself to go.

The first exhibit, which is part of the Earthly Musings show (five artists "reflecting on shifting emotions and perceptions of the natural world") at the Block Gallery in the Municipal Building on West Hargett Street in Raleigh, combines Jenny's highly detailed, yet surrealistic drawings with her evocative poetry:

But as much as I liked those (which are displayed with magnifying glasses so that you can appreciate the fine details of her drawing), I was totally blown away by her exhibit the following night at ArtSpace (by Moore Square, for you Triangle residents).

In this exhibit, which is entitled Carbon Load, Jenny was responding as an artist to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  However, (all the following is just my interpretation, so keep that in mind) she is not about blaming BP for its failure.  Rather, her art asks us to face the fact that it is our dependence, if not addiction, to oil that creates the situations where environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez or the BP Gulf Coast oil spills occur.  So while we can hold these companies to task for their failures, we need to look at ourselves for the ways that our excessive use of oil and gas drive the oil production business.

However, what is so brilliant about this exhibit is that Jenny doesn't lecture us or nag us--she leads by example.  Or, that is, she creates an environment where we can be vulnerable about our contributions to the global environmental problem by going first--by being vulnerable herself.  The way she does that is that she took her beautiful graphite (i.e., carbon) drawings of sea creatures (which took who knows how many hours to draw), and handed them over to another artist named Matthew Stromberg and allowed him to alter her artwork using fossil fuels.  So Stromberg took these beautiful works, and soaked them in rocket fuel, or burned them, or covered them in carbon or tar, or hitched them to a submersible to be soaked in the ocean depths.

The show is the results of the collaboration between the two.  In some of the pieces, you can barely see Jenny's original drawings.  In others, Matthew's alterations mirror Jenny's original piece in beautiful and thought-provoking ways:

This is one of the most interesting and evocative art exhibits I've seen since I've been in Raleigh.  So I know I recommend a lot of things, but I really recommend that those of you who are in the area come down and see this show, which will only be on display at ArtSpace until August 27.

This raised a lot of questions for us, not only about our relationship to these environmental issues and our shared responsibility for ecological problems, but also about what is the purpose of art (one of the students in our group said this exhibit made him sad, and we talked about whether art is always supposed to uplift us or make us happy, or what value it can have when it makes us wake up to things we might otherwise miss or deny).  

I will also say that, personally, it makes me really glad to have such an artist as a teacher for my son.   While I have him do lots of art classes, and I think they are all valuable, I really appreciate the ability for him to learn from such a cutting edge artist who continues to grow and learn and experiment and risk with her own art.  That is own of my own rules as a teacher--if I want them to stretch or question or work, I have to do so first.  But Miss Jenny definitely does all of that--and more!


  1. Thanks for posting about this Carol! We are a family that also benefits from Jenny's instruction. I knew she had a show coming up, but didn't know the details. I'll be sending folks to your blog for this excellent primer. Mika

  2. Great! Thanks for spreading the word, because it really is an exhibit worth seeing, both for the art and for the message it conveys.