Friday, November 4, 2005
Abstract art inspires Gleason patrons this fall
Catherine Evans and Dianne Pappas have diverse backgrounds, yet the two artists have discovered points of connections as individuals and through the visual compatibility of their work. They have a shared interest in the mundane bar code: Evans uses bar code labels literally in one of her pieces, and Pappas applies them more figuratively in a portrait series. The bar code work in fact may have helped lead to their collaboration exhibition entitled "Pixels and Palisades" currently at the Gleason Library. The show runs from November 2 through December 31.
"I sent Andrea [Urban] a card of one of my prints," says Pappas. Urban acts as co-curator with Brooke Cragan of the Art at the Gleason Library shows. Urban's husband Glen co-founded Management Decision Systems, a company that pioneered the use of barcodes in supermarkets. For this reason, the library volunteer found the abstract barcode portraits that Pappas sent her in fall of 2004 particularly intriguing. Urban followed up with a trip to visit the artist at her studio at the ArtSpace in Maynard, located at the former Fowler Middle School at 63 Summer Street.
Both Urban and Cragan frequently visit local artist studios, exhibits, and galleries to find works to show at the library. Each show runs two months, and the curators schedule exhibits about a year in advance. Many shows are prompted by material mailed directly to the curators. (Artists interested in exhibiting should submit information and photographs of their work to Art at the Gleason Curators, Gleason Library, 22 Bedford Road, Carlisle, MA, 01741. The curators focus on work created by local artists or pieces inspired by or featuring Carlisle.)
Impressed by the scope of Pappas' work and the variety of pieces at ArtSpace, Urban subsequently invited Pappas to display her prints in Carlisle. She suggested inclusion of another artist from ArtSpace. Pappas recommended Evans. Although both women work at the ArtSpace, they had just met while putting up their work for the site's annual October open house in 2004.
"When we were hanging our work for the group show together, we realized everything we did looked good together," says Evans. "Part of it was the colors — I was doing a lot of lighter colors previous to this year. Now, even when I'm doing this black-and-white series, it still works. So there's something about its sensibility."
Each of the artists has about 20 pieces on display. Prices for the works start at $250 with 20% of the fee donated to the library.
Inspired by the human element
Pappas personifies analytical and creative instincts. She earned an unusual combined B.A. degree from Smith College in Mathematics and Studio Art. Today she lives with her husband and two young sons, ages 9 and 6, in Sudbury.
"There's a sort of dichotomy between the left and right sides of the brain, the math side and the art side, but I don't think it's as disconnected as it seems," says Pappas. "Not to me. I think a lot of the work has the detail and design-orientation [left] and then this abstraction [right] trying to meet."
After graduating from college, Pappas became an actuary and worked as an employee benefits consultant for 13 years. She pursued art as a hobby until she quit her full-time job six years ago after the birth of her second son. Then she began taking art classes, exhibiting in shows, and now works 25 to 30 hours outside the house.
Pappas loves to experiment. She brings a wide variety of pieces to the Gleason show. All have a multimedia component. They bring together various elements, such as drawing, sewing-machine stitching, and her love of numbers. There are shadows of body shapes and pattern sequences. There are paint swatches, digital collages, and contact sheets of photographs sewn together. And, of course, barcodes.
"I used a label maker to create a raised list of numbers," she recalls of the barcode work. She subsequently created a printing plate, and did rubbings with a variety of fabrics. She calls the first in the "Barcode Betty" series a "self-portrait" because the numbers are significant to her. She created portraits of her friends by encoding the numbers she uses to contact them on the telephone.
Pappas has exhibited her work in Maynard, Concord, Lincoln, Lowell, Swampscott, Marblehead, and Boston. She won a Silver Medal in the "Celebrating Hellenic Heritage" show at the Whistler Museum of Art in Lowell in 2004. She attained the title of Medici Society Artist at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2002.
Reinventing discarded objects
Evans also brings an unlikely degree to a career in art: a combined B.A. in English and Political Theory from the University of Rhode Island. Although she was considering a career in law, she says that she was an artist from the day she was born. Nonetheless, she suppressed her artistic side after her first marriage when she had to focus on raising children.
"I was supporting a family," she recalls, "so a lot of the things that I did to be creative were to make money." She began sewing at the age of four. Over the years her skill in working with textiles combined with an excellent spatial capacity enabled her to make a career working with fabricsat a price to her art. "It ruined it for me," she recalls, "production took the creativity out." She turned her energy to social justice issues and became involved in women's groups, volunteered for the ACLU, and even worked in the court system for seven years as an advocate for abused kids.
Now, living in Maynard in her second marriage and with her children grown — she's proud to call herself a "grandmother" — Evans has turned returned to art. The biggest change came four years ago.
"Getting a studio has made the difference," says Evans explaining she can focus on her art and can structure her day around it. She calls her work "object art." She collects discarded pieces, such as yogurt containers, and paints them and arranges them to create a visual display. She created her "Bathmat series" by taking white and cream-colored mats and applying paint to them. She experimented by moving the paint on the mat, using different types of paint, experimenting with humidity. Much of her work has a three-dimensional aspect — one series looks positively prickly. She takes discarded elements and creates them into something new. Her work often has patterns and aspects of order. This mathematical component probably accounts for why her pieces work so well in context with those of Pappas.
In the past four years, she has exhibited every year in Maynard. She has also exhibited in Cambridge. The Boston Globe has reviewed her work twice. Nonetheless, she has one problem with being a professional artist: "I don't like to sell my work."
Collaboration and connection
Who is "pixels" and who is "palisades?" "I think we're both," says Pappas. "Probably the 'pixels' came from my head, but our work has just really visually looked good togetherlike it belongs. Yet we come from these different places in our process and our lives, and yet we arrive at this thing. Pixels and palisades ends up being an overlap." Pappas references some work Evans did with sequences that look very similar to work she did on the computer.
"We're both," agrees Evans although she subsequently admits that "palisades" probably came from her. She speaks of being a woman, and of the fences she encountered along the way.
Both have traveled different journeys to art, but their works share an uncanny commonality. They share interests in mixed media, stitching, textiles and patternsand, of course, the bar code. That road has led them to Carlisle, but one has the impression that it will only be a short stop as their careers as artists.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito