With a theme like Motherland, our minds can stray to many different artistic interpretations. Personally, I first thought of my own mother. Then my brain traveled to our planet itself, Mother Earth, the giver and sustainer of life. I thought of places I have lived, the state I was born in, and other people’s native countries. I thought about land itself, and who owns it. I thought about how women have made incredible contributions to art, science, politics, and social progress.
This year CoCA is featuring female and femme-identifying artists and themes. When working together to design the graphic for this show, we changed the “O” in “Mother” to the Venus symbol, commonly used to represent femininity. Every interpretation by CoCA members this year exuded it. The word “nature” is derived from a Latin word that means birth. Hence, Mother Earth. The caretaker to us all, our home. Home is a place that shelters you from the storm, a residence filled with your family and friends who take care of you. But not everyone has a home, and not all homes are safe.
Being separated from your family can be tragic. Shruti Ghatak’s painting Away depicts a ghostly figure shrouded in darkness and dishonor. Ghatak writes about the piece, “This self-portrait is a confession of sorrow and guilt of being away for several years from my mother back in my homeland.” She continues in prose, “What defines a place? Where is our home? Is this where the memories live on as we drift along life.” It is painted on what looks like a cut-out from a magazine. Most words painted over, the biggest visible text is in the header: “LIVES.” The next word that immediately jumped out revealed the painting’s focal point: “TOGETHER.” Ghatak longs for her mother, and to be at “home” with her, together.
A big collective theme, of course, is motherhood. Kalindi Kunis’ sculpture Fertility is made of materials collected from battling infertility. These materials that are typically thrown away are mixed in with an array of rainbow paints and broken mirrors. It is colorful and resembles a medical disco-ball. Kunis states that it is a commentary on “the intense pressure put on women to conceive and bear children… what we are pressured into and what we suffer towards our ‘purpose’; as women—and the waste.”
With waste, we do the opposite of taking care of something. Karen Hackenberg’s drawings of beach trash and natural elements tangled together as one brings up environmentalism. These pieces are made on an iPad Pro and drawn with an Apple Pencil. Digitally created on the spot, they are then later limited produced on rag paper. She says, “I take a humorous approach to the serious subject of ocean degradation in my paintings, presenting a tongue-in-cheek taxonomy of imaginary synthetic sea creatures.”
In a sea of seriousness, I appreciated the work that brought to light some fun in heavy themes and times. The best? The sculpture St. Felicia: Patron Saint of Farewells, Slayer of Fools by Lisa Myers Bulmash. A reference to a phrase from the movie Friday has grown into a present-day salutation that you express when you’re completely over interacting with someone. “BYE, FELICIA!” The piece glows with religious imagery and is surrounded by green moss.
With the help of Amanda Manitach, our juror this year, we have curated an amazing show. The ideas in this show have all traveled far, from the creators’ first inception of the work to its final form, dawning in the pages of this catalog, many hanging on our gallery walls. The themes represented in “Motherland” are so important: sexuality, pollution, population, immigration, and the environment. The gravity of them weighs on our consciousness. As we bear with the immensity of these themes, let’s remember to take care of each other, take care of the world we live in, and take care of Mother Earth herself.
— Timothy Rysdyke, Gallery Manager