A Conversation between Deb Eck and Elena Thomas about Full Circle at the Weeks Gallery Jamestown NY
I had intended to write while I was away, but it has been a bit of a whirlwind of a trip, and the time difference and the jet lag has meant that everything was happening at the wrong time of day, and at the end of the day when I wanted to write, I was too tired… anyway… I didn’t.
So I will attempt to catch up on what’s been happening.
Throughout the time I have been in Jamestown I have had the pleasure to talk to loads of students and members of the public visiting the gallery. I have thrown pots, sewn shoes, made a book… a very creative eleven days!
I have been on sightseeing trips, in bright sunshine and in a blizzard! I’ve eaten delicious food, and been to some amazing places. The Corning Glass Museum was astonishing!
Debra was terrific, putting me up in her beautiful home, full of art and old oak floors and stairs and cats, her husband Glenn drove me around with good grace and humour, showing me the sights and making sure I got to the airport in time to come home. They welcomed me into their family get together, I felt at home, comfortable and warm. It’s been great.
And at last I met the wonderful Gallery Director Colin Shaffer. (He and Deb, and intern Cat put up the show, beautifully curated I must say.) He was great. The sort of person I felt I have known for much longer than a few weeks. He suggested that for the Reception evening and Artists talk, that I perform, and he would play guitar to accompany me. We had just a few hours to rehearse, and we managed to present a set of four songs (one was a capella). He got blisters on his fingers as he had not played much recently, but bravely persevered. It felt good to be singing these songs again, in a very different way, with a different person and a different arrangement. It was really good fun, and to be honest I would have loved to have spent more time with Colin, musically noodling, recommending music to each other, hanging out and telling band stories. Of all the spectacular and big and wonderful things I did while I was there, the simple pleasure of sitting down with someone, playing and singing, that was a joy, so thanks for that Colin. I really hope we do get to meet again… although I suspect we may continue the email conversations about music and art.
My first visit to the gallery was a bit overwhelming really. I did, as predicted, have a small cry. But only a little one, when I was on my own. The gallery is a beautiful bright airy space. The lighting is great and the hang is cohesive, it makes sense. The work is displayed mostly chronologically when it comes to the walls, but three dimensional pieces punctuate the space and provide places for the gaze to stop which act as visual jumping off points. I’m able to sit in the middle and see the links between works that I wasn’t so aware of previously. I suppose I’d started to think of my work as a series of projects… which it is… but it is more than that. As I look around I see links materially… textiles, stitches, paper, wood, ink, watercolour, graphite (and of course the songs) I’m also mentally linking with work that isn’t in the exhibition.
There are conceptual links across the work too. I see in my own work a focus on love and loss, but dealt with using a caring, tender, light touch. I also see where my focus is up close and personal, and where I’ve pulled further out to attempt to deal with a bigger picture (pun intended). But then, inevitably, having looked at that, I find a different spot to home in on. My eyes drift and bounce around the room, picking on favourite and familiar elements. It’s like having all your relatives round for Christmas dinner… before the fight starts… but holding an old grudge here and there.
I think it would be good to get someone else to review this exhibition. Someone less familiar with it all. The family therapist that can see things more clearly?
I find myself in that state where anxiety and excitement are in perfect(?) balance.
I am fairly organised: all the documents are printed and in a wallet. I have currency and a travel money card. I am insured. My phone is travel ready. I’ve got clothes sorted, hanging, ready to pack. A new suitcase, and scales ready to weigh it. The travel is where the anxiety lies.
The excitement (although some is sprinkled in with the travel anxiety) lies with my itinerary for when I’m actually there. I have artist talks, sessions with students, workshops, tourism, and a fair amount of just hanging out with Debra.
I also, unexpectedly, have a gig! Colin has asked if I would like to sing at the reception on the 23rd… he will learn a couple of my Drawing Songs pieces… and we will rehearse when I get there. This is very exciting/daunting, as at the moment, Colin is an almost complete stranger… apart from an exchange of emails, and the friendship once removed, through Debra. I’m excited to see what he will do with these songs. They will be recorded/filmed I’m sure. I’m confident that it will be fine. If Colin was confident enough to suggest it, and I’m confident enough to sing it, it’ll be great, right? For me it will be all about the process and the experience. All my previous performances have been with people I know very well and have worked with now for a long time.
I have to say I am thrilled with and humbled by the amount of work other people are putting in to ensure this exhibition and my visit are the best they can possibly be. Amazing. Thanks to all the team xxx
I have no doubt that I will return from the US invigorated and refreshed, with too many ideas about where my practice will lead me next.
For a virtual gallery experience visit The Weeks Gallery