Artwork thrives on its ability to make its viewer draw connections between what is visually represented and visceral life experiences. This winter, visitors to the Davis Gallery at Houghton House will be introduced to an artist who embodies that connection. From Jan. 23 to Feb. 27, artist Kate Gridley will exhibit her collection, “Passing Through: Portraits of Emerging Adults.”
The exhibit features 17 life-size portraits of young adults and utilizes both canvas and sound portraits to bring to life each subject. “Passing Through” marks moments in which emerging adults transition to realize their selves and claim their voices. Different religious and cultural beliefs, a range of sexual identities and orientations, socioeconomic status, work and travel experiences, failures and successes, family structures and health issues are represented across the 17 subjects.
“The notion she’s dealing with is young people as they mature and transition into independent, free-thinking adults,” reflects Professor of Art and Architecture A.E. Ted Aub, who has curated this exhibition. “I believe there is a special appeal to viewers of the same approximate age because they can relate as they glean personal meaning from “reading” the portraits. Part of it is a psychological inner reading that comes from “behind the mask,” and part of it is the more superficial according to what the subjects are wearing for example. The life-size portraits have a mirroring effect.”
Gridley will offer a talk at the opening of the exhibit on Friday, Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Davis Gallery. Informal and open to the public, the talk is meant to generate questions from its audience. Gridley will discuss her own process and aspirations for the exhibit as well as offer students and faculty her unique perspective on the arts.
According to Aub, “the work is accessible as it is highly accomplished and offers a kind of realism that is rare to find these days. But the work feels very present and contemporary precisely because the portraits feel “real.” I would not say the work is necessarily geared for “older teens”, per se– everyone can relate because we all know people of this age as either ourselves, as friends, as children or grandchildren, and as older brothers and sisters. We have either been there or are going there- they are really portraits of an age, and a challenging one at that.”
“Passing Through” is currently traveling through the Northeast to a variety of museums and venues including the Brattleboro Museum of Art, the Jackson Gallery at Towne Hall Theatre and the Mahaney Center for the Arts.
Awarded a Hutchinson Memorial Fellowship from Williams College, Gridley pursued her studies in New York City before moving to Florence, Italy for a year and a half of study of Renaissance painting techniques in the Atelier of Ben Long, former student of Pietro Annigoni. Her portraits hang in public and private collections; her landscape and still life paintings hang in private collections here and abroad. She completed the official state portrait of the Honorable Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont in 2010, which hangs in the Vermont Statehouse, and the official portrait of the Honorable William K. Sessions lll in 2012, which hangs in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, D.C.
In conjunction with the exhibit, a concert featuring François S. Clemons, tenor, and Gridley on piano will be performed in the Davis Gallery on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. The concert, “Fifty Years After Selma: an Evening of American Negro Spirituals,” will include musical selections titled “Ah Woke Up This Morning With My Mind,” “Lil Boy How Ol’ Are You,” and “Everytime I Feel the Spirit” among others.
A gift of Clarence A. (Dave) Davis, Jr. ’48, the Davis Gallery at Houghton House has six shows each year beginning with a faculty exhibition and ending the year with a student exhibition. In between, a variety of artists and architects are invited to show their work. Primarily, the Davis Gallery is a space to immerse Hobart and William Smith students in visual culture by providing an environment for studying the role of art and architecture in shaping, embodying and interpreting cultures as well as a community resource.