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Blurred Lines at the library’s popular “Art at the Gleason” series

by Karina Coombs

The work of four artists is currently on display at Gleason Library. Blurred Lines features area artists Dayna Talbot, Leslie Zelamsky, Barbara Guilmet and Samantha Tucker. The exhibit runs until October 1. An artist reception will be held on September 18. 

Dayna Talbot

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Detail from Dayna Talbot’s Read Between the Lines. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

Since her 2007 Gleason exhibit, the work of Carlisle’s Dayna Talbot has taken a new direction and she has learned to relinquish control and embrace the element of surprise as evident in her new fiber pieces. Two examples of this are found on the first floor near the circulation desk: Read Between the Lines (two pieces) is made of string, pulp, dye and wood and In Search of Silence is acrylic on wood and silk.

“I’ve learned to let go of the vision and let the materials dictate what the outcome of it is,” says Talbot who is currently working on her thesis for an MFA at Lesley University College of Art and Design. With dualism as her focus, Talbot is exploring the relationship between order and chaos and restriction and freedom. She is also in the process of constructing a large installation that will be on display in the Lesley gallery in January 2016.   

Finding quiet and calm

Talbot began painting late in life, beginning with a watercolor class offered by the Council on Aging. At the age of 50, she earned a BFA in painting from Massachusetts College of Art during a leave of absence from United Airlines following the death of 18 co-workers on September 11, 2001. Making art is both personal and therapeutic for Talbot who explains she initially began painting landscapes that were meditative, only to discover it did not work for her. 

After some experimentation, reading and attending meditation classes, Talbot got interested in using other materials to make imagery. A YouTube video from the Institute of Aging that showed seniors using painted strings to make marks was particularly inspiring and she began taking her own hand out of the work, instead letting the materials interact. “It all really ties into my life,” explains Talbot of her evolution as an artist. “How we all experience different [tragedies] in our life and looking for that place where you can find quiet and calm.”

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Garden Tea before it was fired in the wood kiln. (Courtesy photo)

Before her career as a flight attendant, Talbot had studied clothing design in college. Now that she is back to working with fibers she sees her work as having come full circle. In addition to her collection at Gleason—highlighting earlier work in addition to recent creations—she recently had a show in Bethlehem, New Hampshire and in the Chandler Gallery at Cambridge’s Maude Morgan Arts. The Cambridge show—focused on grief and healing—included one piece from a larger project Talbot will resume after earning her MFA. When completed, the project will consist of 18 pieces, one for each of the friends she lost.

Leslie Zelamsky

Making art has been a part of Leslie Zelamsky’s life since she was a child. “I’m a lifer,” she says, explaining her background as traditional with an emphasis on drawing and painting. Originally from New York City, Zelamsky received her BFA from Cooper Union School of Art where she primarily focused on painting, but later took an interest in sculpture and photography. She credits Cooper Union with providing a strong foundation that allows her to experiment and push herself creatively no matter the medium. “I don’t feel confined to use any one material,” she says.

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Detail from Leslie Zelamsky’s Ayeka IV.
(Photo by Karina Coombs

Zelamsky went on to earn her MFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art where she was the recipient of the Patricia Robert Harris Fellowship. In graduate school, Zelamsky found a less structured environment and a diversity of language and media and her work evolved into more sculptural pieces. One of her large sculptures is currently on display at the Fruitland Museum in Harvard as part of the museum’s outdoor biannual juried art show, Art in Nature. The piece, Compartmentalized Inclinations, will be up until the beginning of November and is located near the museum entrance.

Found on the first and second floor of Gleason, Zelamsky’s mixed media abstract paintings incorporate traditional oil paint, pastels and tar, creating a veiled and layered appearance. Made between 2013-2015, the series Ayeka—the Hebrew word meaning, “Where are you?”—is a particular favorite of the artist. “[Ayeka IV] is the loosest and least restrictive in terms of color and gesture,” says Zelamsky of the piece.

“My work evolves from many layers of material and imagery that work together to create the final piece,” she writes in her artist statement. “Each layer has its own story and history. Each decision to construct or destruct, to apply or remove paint contributes to the final piece.” In addition to Gleason and the Fruitland Museum, Zelamsky’s work will also be on display in her studio at ArtSpace Maynard September 26-27 during ArtSpace’s Open Studio. To learn more about ArtSpace visit: http://www.artspacemaynard.com.

Barbara Guilmet and Samantha Tucker

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Barbara Guilmet’s Garden Tea.
(Photo by Karina Coombs)

Working together for the past seven years, Barbara Guilmet and Samantha Tucker formed Muddy Girls Studio, located in Lowell’s Western Avenue Studios where they produce a variety of functional pottery and sculpture. Guilmet discovered ceramics in her final semester of college and fell in love with it. She would eventually own a number of paint-your-own-pottery studios before moving to Lowell in 2008. In addition to classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, she studied ceramics at Middlesex Community College with ceramist Yary Livan who was recently awarded a 2015 National Endowment of the Arts National Heritage Foundation award—one of nine in the country.

While much of her learning comes from practicing on her own, Tucker also studied ceramics with Livan at Middlesex and continues to learn from both Guilmet and Livan now that the three of them share the studio space. She and Guilmet have also traveled for classes, attending a glaze chemistry workshop in North Carolina with John Britt. In their studio, Guilmet and Tucker work on a variety of ceramic pieces by hand or using a pottery wheel. They also make their own glazes.

Cambodian-style wood-fired kiln

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Samantha Tucker’s wood-fired tea pot and other pieces. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

While their studio has two electric kilns, Guilmet and Tucker prefer using Livan’s wood-fired kiln located on Aiken Street in Lowell. Built in conjunction with Middlesex Community College and the Lowell National Historic Park, the traditional kiln was built by Lavin and Kang Proeung, two of three master Cambodian ceramicists who survived the Khmer Rouge. The kiln is in operation about six times per year. 

“They are a surprise,” says Tucker of the pieces that come out of it. “You just don’t know what they are going to look like, what the fire’s going to do with them.” Both Guilmet and Tucker prefer to fire their pieces in the wood-fired kiln without using a glaze, instead letting the fire, ash and smoke add color. A number of these pieces can be found at the top of the staircase in a case at Gleason. Guilmet’s large teapot on the first floor—Garden Tea—was also fired in the kiln, but cracked because of a heat differential near the door. “It’s a great garden piece,” she says, adding, “Clay has a mind of its own.”

Guilmet finds inspiration for her work from nature or from the history of the building that houses their studio—the former Joan Fabrics mill—Tucker explains she is drawn to pieces that take on human forms, often discovering imagery as she manipulates the clay. “I’m the opposite of Barbara [Guilmet],” she explains. “I don’t necessarily have an image in my head.” While collaboration may be tough for some, it works for Guilmet and Tucker. “When we collaborate it’s really good because we kind of balance each other out [and] we just have fun,” says Tucker. Guilmet adds, “Half the time I look at the pottery we have and I don’t know if it was me or Samantha who made it.”

In addition to their work at Gleason, you can view more pieces at the Western Avenue Studios Open Studio (the first Saturday of each month) or the Loading Dock Gallery that is also located at Western Avenue Studios and is open five days a week. Their pieces will also be in the Cassidy Gallery at Jackson Village in Jackson, New Hampshire. To learn more about the Muddy Girls Studio visit: http://www.muddygirlsstudio413.blogspot.com. To learn more about Lowell’s Western Avenue Studios visit: http://westernavenuestudios.com.   ∆