Sand: A Dance Performance by Victoria Awkward

Last weekend we had the honor of hosting local dance performance, Sand. They kicked off the weekend with notable press from The Boston Globe, The Improper Bostonian, and The Arts Fuse - so it came as no surprise it was sold out both nights.

Sand Performers at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. Image courtesy of Victoria Awkward.

Sand is a dance performance organized and choreographed by visual and performance artist Victoria Awkward. It started as a trio and aimed to explore the nature of sand through dance. By interpreting “the loose, compact, and rocky textures of sand,” Victoria combines solo, duet, and full group dances to showcase the relationships between the dancers as well as their individual strong suits. Since the first installment, Sand has gone on to develop as both a film and a larger installment. It highlights five dancers; Joniece “JoJo” Boykins, a graduate of SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance; Tabitha Hanay-Reaves, who trains with the Boston Dance Theater; Michayla Kelly, a graduate of Goucher College in Mathematics and Dance; Kate Dube, a member of the Boston Dance Theater and freelance dancer; and Jessy Zizzo, an interdisciplinary artist focused in dance and comedy. This performance also features Tatiana Isabel, whose poetry contributes to the passionate narrative established in Sand.

With roughly forty people in attendance, Sand ran for forty minutes. Following the performance, Victoria Awkward invites audience members to participate in a question and answer session as well as an opportunity to meet the dancers. The purpose of the performance, as noted by Tatiana Isabel, is not only to explore the idea of sand in a physical way, but to “explore diversity and inclusion through the lens of a woman of color.” As an audience member, it was wonderful to see the way Victoria Awkward’s choreography was able to highlight each dancer as an individual, while also celebrating the importance of their movements as a whole and each member’s contribution to the narrative.

If you missed the performance this past weekend, you have another chance to view the show at Fountain Street Gallery in April, click for details. A huge thanks to Victoria Awkward and her team for putting on a wonderful show!

All images courtesy of Victoria Awkward. Blog post written by Kaylee Hennessey.

Press Release: Rena Detrixhe, Red Dirt Rug

Installation Preview Dates: August 28 – August 31, 2018 (Open to the public)
Opening Reception: Friday, September 7, 6-9 pm
Exhibition dates: September 5 - 30, 2018

Rena Detrixhe presses designs into a Red Dirt Rug installation. Photo by: Mark Andrus

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery is proud to introduce the site-specific installation, Red Dirt Rug by Rena Detrixhe. Self identified as a hunter-gatherer, Detrixhe explores and analyzes history and the effect of human impact on our soil. Originally from Kansas, the artist now lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma, an area of the country that has been rapidly altered in the past century. Detrixhe began developing this body of work in 2016, as a result of her residency with the Tulsa Artist Fellowship. Red Dirt Rug is created from soil collected in central Oklahoma. Once transported to her studio in Tulsa, the artist spends hours finely grinding and sifting the earth into a soft, red dust. Standing in front of Red Dirt Rug, visitors might find their perception changes. The differences between outside and indoors, past and present become blurred, or perhaps they even merge. According to Detrixhe, “Red dirt symbolizes grit, perseverance, sorrow, pain, spirit, resilience. While it is rooted here in Oklahoma, I believe it has national implications.”

Rena Detrixhe’s work is both meticulous and ephemeral. Detrixhe has intimate connections with her materials and she works to understand their properties through process and careful labor. Prior to working with red dirt, she has created drawings and objects from seeds, ice, dried crabapple fruits, resin droplets emulating water, and a variety of household objects. Red Dirt Rug is heavy with metaphors and historical significance. The work is both a meditation of our past and the frame for our future, prompting deeper thinking about our world. For Detrixhe, “Landscapes have memory, places have memory, the earth has memory. There is a reason we say something happened on our home soil. Soil has a memory, too.”

Detail of previous installation of Red Dirt Rug. Photo by: Mark Andrus 

The significance of Detrixhe’s Red Dirt Rug goes beyond the piece’s original location. The artist illuminates questions that can be asked about the histories and geographies of land in the United States at large. When reflecting on the meaning of the artwork, Detrixhe explains, “I’m not sure that a single work of art can adequately represent the multitude of complicated histories,” she said. “But if any material can hold all of those things in it, it would be soil, earth.” Iterations of Red Dirt Rug have been previously displayed in a number of states throughout the Midwest, in Virginia and now in Boston.

This installation is a unique artwork that will only be displayed for the duration of the exhibition, holding the harsh and powerful reality that it will inevitably be swept away. Detrixhe works the entirety of the four-day installation, with visitors welcomed to step into the gallery and view the slow, deliberate mark making through careful gestures. The artwork provides a distinct opportunity to allow for a more nuanced space of consideration between the person and the landscape, reminding us of the preciousness of the earth just below our feet. By bringing the dirt inside, the earth attempts to reclaim and reinforce its presence and importance.

While the implications of the artwork are environmental, Detrixhe allows the audience to come to their own conclusions in regard to meaning and impact. Red Dirt Rug encourages the viewer to consider the question: moving forward, is there an alternative to how we, as a culture, relate to our land and the histories it holds?

Detrixhe received her BFA from the University of Kansas in 2013. She has exhibited in museums and galleries across the United States and is the recipient of numerous awards including a scholarship to attend the prestigious art school at Hongik University in Seoul, South Korea and a two-year studio residency with Charlotte Street Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. Recent exhibitions include Ephemera at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, KS, and a solo exhibition at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 2017 she received both the public vote and juried vote awards in the time-based category for her work Red Dirt Rug at ArtPrize Nine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Detrixhe has spent the past two years as a Tulsa Artist Fellow in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Originally from Kansas, the artist now lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Completed Red Dirt Rug. Photo by: Mark Andrus

Completed Red Dirt Rug. Photo by: Mark Andrus

Curator's Notes: Night Swimming

Our intern Abby Lindsay sat down with Abigail Ogilvy and Ally Boli to ask a few questions about their co-curated exhibition, Night Swimming, on view this summer:

Q: At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery, you present both group and solo shows. Is the creative process for curating solo shows particularly different than for a group exhibition?

Abigail: Absolutely, each show is so nuanced in terms of how it comes together. Our recent solo exhibition with Anna Schuleit Haber happened very organically, the works were all in the Northeast (her studio is in New Orleans) and she was quick to work with us on the writing and promotion. For our current show, Night Swimming, Ally and I both researched, met with artists, and discussed who would be the best fit. We were excited to exhibit a few new artists this summer, and are very pleased with how the show turned out.

Q: How long did it take to plan this exhibition? How far in advance did you start preparing for Night Swimming?

Abigail: Each exhibition varies, but for this particular exhibition it took just over a year of planning, studio visits, and selection of the artwork.

Q:  How did you come up with the title, Night Swimming?

Abigail: Ally picked it! So I’ll let her explain.

Ally: I felt Jenna Pirello's piece Night Swimming encapsulated elements of other artists work, visually it references the black background of Donna Moylan's work Twelve Twelve, as well as the fluidity of Natalia Wróbel's work. Austin Eddy also reference's swimming and nighttime in a few of his titles such as, Four Birds, Two Boys, Lake Floating Late at Night in Spring and Two Birds, One Flag Bearer Swimming Down Stream Past a Tunnel.

Q: You are showing Austin Eddy’s artwork for the first time, what drew you to his work initially?

Austin Eddy, "Flying-Fingers, City-Face (Between Here and There)," Oil stick, paper collage on fabric collage on canvas, 40 x 60 in.

Abigail: I saw Austin’s work in an exhibition in June 2017.  We were attracted to his work for the same reason we exhibited each painter in this show. Like all of the artists on view, Austin has a unique and interesting process, is hardworking, smart, and an incredibly talented artist. For Austin specifically, I was initially attracted to his use of basic geometric forms as building blocks for his paintings.

Ally: Abigail showed me his work and I loved his use of texture. 

Q: Austin Eddy, Donna Moylan, and Jenna Pirello are originally from the Boston area, and Natalia Wróbel worked in Boston until last year. Did this impact your decision to feature them together in this exhibition?

Abigail: Isn’t it interesting how they all have ties to Boston? That was a complete accident, we actually didn’t even notice until we were finalizing their bio pages on the website!  

Q: You represent Natalia Wróbel, and have featured her paintings in previous exhibitions at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery. How did you decide which of her works to include in Night Swimming?

Natalia Wróbel, "Luminaries," Oil paint on linen, 39.4 x 47.2 in.

Abigail: Natalia is constantly pushing herself to create new work and go outside of her comfort zone artistically. When she does so, a new series is born and it is amazing to watch her work grow and develop. This new work was created during her artist residency at the Berlin Art Institute in Germany this past fall, and this show debuts these works in Boston.

 Q:  The paintings featured in Night Swimming explore the imaginary using both figuration and abstraction. What effect do you think this has on the audience?

Abigail: Our goal is always to create interesting exhibitions in which visitors want to spend a lot of time with each artwork. The works in Night Swimming really cannot be understood with a quick glance, the audience is forced to slow down. It’s been wonderful to watch our visitors take in the work from a distance, and then get close and analyze the details.

Ally: I hope it inspires our audience to ask questions, whether to themselves, their friends, or to me! 

Q: What does a typical installation day look like for you?

Abigail: I absolutely love install week! Well, it is really a two day period. It may come as a surprise, but I am typically the person who de-installs the previous show (taking down the works), and then I retouch the walls with spackle and bright white paint. When the walls are blank and ready for the next show, there is so much opportunity on the horizon! Usually de-install takes a day and then we install the next day, we like efficiency. 

Ally: And a couple trips back and forth between the gallery and Home Depot

Q: What would you say is the hardest part of coordinating an exhibition?

Abigail: Ah, I hate that question! To answer the reverse of that question, my favorite part is when the first artwork is hung and we are on our way to having a show!

Ally: It's hard to pinpoint, each exhibition presents its own set of unique challenges which is part of what I love.

Rena Detrixhe, "Red Dirt Rug," Photo courtesy of Mark Andrus

Q: Any upcoming shows you are excited about?

Abigail: I think our programming in 2018 has been our strongest in the gallery history – and we have a powerhouse roster of artists exhibiting this fall. Starting with Rena Detrixhe’s installation of Red Dirt Rug in September and ending with our first solo exhibition by Natalia Wróbel in November!

Ally: All of them - go check out our upcoming exhibition page to take a peek what's next.