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Louisville Visual Art’s Open Studio Weekend

A two-day peek into understanding how and why artists create

 

By Sarah Levitch
Photos provided by Louisville Visual Art

 

Returning for its seventh year, Louisville Visual Art’s annual Open Studio Weekend presents a time to celebrate, grieve and reflect as the 53 artists participating open their doors to anyone who desires to walk in. The weekend brings an opportunity to see the man behind the curtain and understand how and why an artist creates, rather than simply seeing their work on display at a museum. Amy Chase, LVA’s creative design director remarked, “It’s the one time of year when artists in the city open their studios in an organized fashion. You get to have one on one time with the artists, see their processes and have a conversation about it.”

This year, Louisville Visual Art welcomes Kristian Anderson, their new executive director. Anderson spoke to us about how this Open Studio Weekend is adapting to the changing social and political climate. He said, “Some of it has been forced to adapt to the pandemic and some of it has been looking at how we can better serve a broad constituency. I think a lot of the traditional ways we think about participating with studios have changed. In the past, LVA was strict about it having to be a studio space, and this year we’re encouraging pop-ups or non-traditional spaces, which allows for an increase in equity. I think it’s really important for a lot of organizations to step back at this time and think about what the barriers for participation are.”

Now you may be asking, how am I supposed to plan to go to 53 artists’ studios in two days? Well, LVA has planned it for you! They will offer a directory with addresses and routes mapped out, as well as an app to find all the studios. The only thing you’ll have to plan is where to eat for lunch. The app also includes a mural tour showcasing the diverse assortment of murals throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana. Chase noted that LVA offers free Louvelo bike rides for the two-day event. Anderson added, “Wear comfortable shoes; you’ll be standing on a lot of concrete floors. Also, ask questions. I think people are often afraid to ask questions about abstract or conceptual pieces because of the pressure to not seem ignorant. Part of the theory of demystifying and opening up this experience to people is to have the artists there interacting with people who have questions.”

Regarding content, Anderson answered that it’s all about perspective. “It depends on how you’ve experienced 2020. Certain artists are tackling COVID, and that art will be more directly impactful for those of us who know someone who has had COVID or lost friends or loved ones to COVID,” said Anderson. “The protests and BLM Movement has pushed the needle and some artists are being influenced by that, and that will resonate with people too. Some people just love a beautiful abstract landscape because they want something that is calming. Some people are looking to art for something uplifting. With 53 artists, I think that everyone brings their lived experience of 2020, and hopefully, the audience will find something that resonates. They might even find something that upsets them. That’s one of the reasons why art is so powerful.”

We spoke to a few participating artists to get a sneak preview of the various mediums and themes explored.

First-time participant Ashley Cathey works with oil, acrylic and found or repurposed materials. Cathey noted, “My work explores identity, African diaspora, mental illness and feminism as it relates to the Black Queer Fem in America. This year, three Black artists including myself, Chip MadmoonVybe Calloway and Kenyatta Bosman will be creating and displaying our studio practice in a popup space at Roots 101 African American History Museum.”

Artwork by Ashley Cathey.

Longtime participant Melanie Miller engages an array of media, from cyanotype photography to watercolor on paper, to glass and plastic in sculptural work, in addition to working with her husband, Casey Hyland, at Hyland Glass. Miller mentioned, “My work is an interpretation of stored emotions and memories found within what is called the Akashic Energy Field. Some of the work is political and focused on social order, and some of it could be deemed historical. All of it, to me, is considered sacred journey work that is reflective of my soul’s path to gain healing and clarity of events that are taking place in the here and now, the past and future. To summarize my work, I suppose I would label it as ‘Energy Gardening.’ From a formal art perspective, my work is abstract, and possibly avant-garde.”

Artwork by Melanie Miller.

Shachaf Polakow, another first-time participant, begins his first year at the Hite Institute’s MFA Program. Polakow commented that he is, “coming from 15 years or so of social documentary and photography, working with communities and activists around the world, documenting their social justice issues and struggles. While photojournalism is still a big part of me and my work, my work at the moment is trying to challenge different aspects in photography. This includes the way landscape art is presented in different mediums to an exploration of the technical limits that are based on racist social constructs that photography carries since its inception.”

Artwork by Shachaf Polakow.

Don Cartwright, owner of KORE Gallery, returns for his third year. Cartwright stated, “I like to explore my internal feelings and thoughts about various topics and be able to express those in an abstracted visual form. Producing art is a very emotional experience for me and an opportunity to see my emotions displayed and on view for others to see as well.”

Artwork by Don Cartwright.

As we come to the end of a particularly challenging year, it’s no question that we are all in need of connection. Anderson summed it up quite eloquently saying, “We’re wrapping up a very challenging year, and these are people that are opening their doors to something that is tough and internal. They’re being vulnerable, but they want to share their art with the community. In 2020, we’ve all been in a frustrating place and lost some element of control. There is a collectively shared moment that is unique to this year.”

So grab your mask, hand sanitizer and artistic goggles to prepare for a weekend of traversing the complex and diverse minds of the artists of Louisville. Step outside of your perspective, challenge your thoughts and discover another person’s world. You may find it’s not that different from your own.

 

For more information:
Louisville Visual Art’s Open Studio Weekend
November 7 & 8, 2020
louisvillevisualart.org/open-studio-weekend