“Visual art is helping shape and shift everything here in the Triangle,” said Reneé Cagnina Haynes, exhibition and publications manager at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art.
To strengthen its connection with local artists, the museum is putting on “Area 919: Artists in the Triangle” opening Saturday, Jan. 24, with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m.
The show features drawings, paintings, photography, performance art, sculpture, video and installations by Jeff Bell, Casey Cook, André Leon Gray, Lincoln Hancock with Yuxtapongo, Harrison Haynes, George Jenne, Stacey L. Kirby, Lavar Munroe, Damian Stamer, Bill Thelen, Hong-An Truong, Stacy Lynn Waddell and Jeff Whetstone. It runs through Aprl 12.
“Everyone realizes how strong the artist community is here, but to bring them together, it shows how deep they are,” Hayes said. “I think that people will walk away with the idea that we are a community of artistic beings.”
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One of these beings is Stacey L. Kirby.
“I just want to inspire people to share their voices,” said the Durham artist, whose exhibit conribution is a performance interaction piece called “The Power of the Ballot.”
“It advocates for political awareness and participation through the process of voting,” she explained.
Kirby has built a voting precinct out of 100 ballot boxes and asks viewers, “What obstacles do you overcome to vote?”
After filling out a ballot, voters step through a green curtain Kirby fashioned, inspired by her memories of going with her mother to vote, and ring a bell. A hand, a live one, will come out and take the ballot.
“Then the precinct officer of the interior will process the ballot and give the person a receipt,” Kirby said. The receipt gives people something that they can find later and remember the experience by.
“The grand finale, is that I will send the ballots to a North Carolina representative of my choice so maybe he or she will think of the voting process and the frustrations of getting to the polls,” she said.
Old piano parts
When Jeff Bell, another “Area 919” artist, was in graduate school at UNC Greensboro, someone in his sculpture department got an old piano with the idea of taking out its cast iron plate to recast. But as everyone began bashing it apart, Bell decided they should be more careful; he realized he wanted to use all of the piano parts to make sculpture.
“Nautilus,” his exhibit piece, was inspired by the submarine in the Disney version of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
“In most of my work I combine materials from a wide variety of objects, but I was always keen on setting boundaries out of one material,” said Bell, who lives in Smithfield. “I knew that the piano had such a variety of parts and materials so it was suitable for this piece.”
The backbone of the Nautilus is a metal plate from a piano that Bell got last year.
“I could see the object would grow out of the metal plate,” said Bell, who cut it down to highlight its shape. Early in the process of deconstructing the piano, Bell already had a sense of what direction the pieces would send him.
It is a lovely piece to behold, large at 52 inches tall. All on its own, it creates this fantastic monologue. One of the fun things about this show will be the conversations that the 50 pieces in the show have with each other.
Chapel Hill artist Casey Cook has several large, sculptures in “Area 919” along with a painting, “Mama Bear, Baby Bear.” All are made with cardboard.
“I began using cardboard to make maquettes (small-scale models). I wanted a fast way to put together an idea,” she aid. “As I began working with it, I felt more in love with the material because it is easy to work with, and I was learning from it. I love the way that the paint is absorbed by it.”
Cook wants her work to pique viewers’ curiosity based on their own experience, so she prefers not to say too much about what informs each piece. “I am not interested in a didactic relationship or being preachy.”
Though she left the Triangle, where she grew up, for school, she returned to pursue her life as an artist.
“I am proud of this area and proud that the Nasher has decided to show what local artists are making,” Cook said. “A lot of artists can’t afford to necessarily live in the big cities anymore. ... We are very grateful for local museums that are going to show our work and support us. Kudos to the Nasher.”