Frenchtown’s ArtYard recently hosted a collaborative four-part “living exhibition” that brought in 16 artists of diverse backgrounds to answer the question: “What is it we collectively care about?”
“’Going to the Meadow’ is unlike anything we have ever done or seen, and it represents a convergence of wonderful, interesting humans grappling with what matters to them collectively and alone,” writes ArtYard founder and executive director JIll Kearney of the exhibit.
The upper floor of the gallery—which opened earlier this year, and is phenomenal—was turned into a workspace for the artists, who used materials brought in by ArtYard to create pieces that answer that question. Artists lived in Frenchtown for two weeks, often walking together to and from the gallery, dining together, recreating along the Delaware River, sometimes pulling materials—refuse, detritus, natural items—from the surrounding landscape.
The first cohort came in September, and guests were invited to watch them, and cohorts following them, at work. What unfolded was true collaboration; as the gallery notes: “The exhibition, unfolding in real-time, aspires to prioritize process over outcome, the collective over the individual, play over work, and to embrace success and failure equally.”
Now on view (through Dec. 26) on both floors of the ArtYard gallery space is a distillation and aggregate of the work the four cohorts put together over the last three months. Curators Robin Hill and Ulla Warchol integrated pieces to create a much broader collaboration—between the cohorts (who didn’t see any of the other cohorts’ work), the community, the gallery and the viewer. In fact, guests are invited to sketch what they care about on a chalkboard tablet and set it alongside others on a set of ledges.
The bottom floor features photography, the aforementioned guests chalk tablets, a row of books (with an accompanying reading list) that inspired the artists and large chalkboards that visualize the thought and planning process of each cohort.
Meanwhile, the top floor features a large, centered visual display of the work of the artists, integrated together by Hill and Warchol. Themes of interconnectedness, intractability and interdependence natural emerge in objects: quilts of various material, nets (salvaged and/or fabricated), ropes, cotton wads, egg crates, bamboo rafters, and hammocks. And underlying it all is a sense of impermanence, from the materials (which were once trashed, destined to biodegrade) to the exhibit itself, which will come down at the end of the month.
There’s also film art in the form of a tablet playing a loop of artists at work, as well as a few words that guide the viewer through the exhibition.
The name of the project, “Going to the Meadow” was inspired by a quote from musician Tom Waits in a 2017 New York Times interview with Wyatt Mason, which is emblazoned on a huge white board that introduces the collaborative exhibit on display now: “There’s an expression in classical music. It goes, ‘We went out to the meadow.’ It’s for those evenings that can only be described in that way: There were no walls, there were no music stands, there weren’t even any instruments. There was no ceiling, there was no floor, we all went out to the meadow. It describes a feeling. Usually someone will say it, but they’re probably reluctant to say it—you might be afraid that only you went out to the meadow last night. But it’s one of those things where you go as a group. It’s not like: ‘Last night was a really great show for me and it sucked for you.’ No. We all went out to the meadow. There’s something magical about it. And you can never plan on it.”
It’s worth a visit for anyone who, indeed, cares about the area, or art, and anyone who’s asked the question, why do I feel compelled to create? And, why do I feel compelled to create the thing I’m creating?
See more of the artists work at artyard.org/exhibitions/going-to-the-meadow. Artists were Lisa Rybovich Crallé, SHENEQUA, Irish Cushing, Shayok Mukhopadhyay, Ramekon O’Arwisters, Hannah Chalew, Joanne Douglas, Andrew Sullivan, Carmen Argote, Milcah Bassel, Angela Willetts, Yvonne Shortt, Anna Mayer, Sophia Wang, Dahlia Elsayed and Minoosh Zomorodinia.