Figurative artists Jessica Calderwood and Julie Liger-Belair will present an “Absurd Imaginaries” exhibition at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts opening with a reception Friday, Jan. 11, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Emilee Petersmark of The Crane Wives will perform a solo set of her music and a cash bar will be available. All are invited free.
The exhibition, which will continue on view in the center’s Bertha Krueger Reid Gallery through March 1, features Calderwood and Liger-Belair drawing on surrealist motifs and folklore in playful yet subversive explorations of gender and identity.
The women portrayed in these works teeter between fantasy and reality. The result is playful, whimsical —and painful, at times.
SCA education and exhibition manager Whitney Valentine said she admired the artists’ work separately and though they might be even stronger paired together. The two had not met previously nor were aware of the others’ work.
Calderwood’s near life-size porcelain sculptures of heel-clad figures are often overtaken by geometric masses of metal-sculpted foliage or gumball-like clusters of felt and polymer clay.
Also a jewelry designer, Calderwood’s love for embellishment is evident. Far from trinkety jewelry, however, her decorative masses of flowers or brightly-colored baubles become like armor that encases the figure, masking and shielding it from its surrounding environment.
Similarly, Liger-Belair’s collages pair Victorian-era portraits with whimsical hand-painted floral and geometric patterns that adorn and camouflage both the figure and background. The rigidity of the women’s high-collared garb and somber expressions are contrasted by the fanciful, dreamlike landscapes.
“This past year,” said Valentine, “we have all heard painful truths from women whose voices have been silenced.
“What’s powerful about art, and in particular this work, is that it draws us in with its sheer visual force and stirs our soul and imagination in ways that words can’t. Their works lure and startle you into paying attention to the complicated and painful female stories beneath the surface,” she said.
Calderwood is an image-maker and sculptor who works primarily with metal, enamel, porcelain and traditional craft materials such as felt and polymer clays.
She combines traditional and industrial metalworking processes with craft-based processes as a means to make statements about contemporary life.
Calderwood received her BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and MFA from Arizona State University, with an emphasis in metalworking. Her work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally in curated and juried exhibitions. She is currently Associate Professor of Art at Ball State University in Indiana.
Liger-Belair spent childhood summers in the Canadian wilderness, observing and collecting natural elements. These early experi- ences shaped her imagination and knack for combining materials.
For the last two decades, Liger-Belair has collected Victorian-era photographs and “cabinet cards,” late 19th-century portrait photographs mounted on thick paper. She incorporates these photos into assemblages and mixed media collages to create what she calls “alters to everyday life.”
She studied printmaking, photography, illustration and metalsmithing at Ontario College of Art and Design.
For more information on the exhibition, visit sc4a.org/absurd-imaginaries.
Teachers interested in scheduling a free tour and workshop for their students may contact Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org.