Debra Claffey, Pat Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, Charyl Weissbach
I am writing on behalf of four artists whom I have had the pleasure of working with recently, the Elemental Artist Collective, Debra Claffey, Pat Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, and Charyl Weissbach. We recently hosted their work in our campus gallery, the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery at Worcester State University. Their exhibition, Crossroads: Four Perspectives, was on view from Oct. 6-Nov. 14, 2019, and it was one of our most successful shows in terms of attendance, aesthetics, and organization. Their work exhibits the best aspects of what we look for in our gallery: strong aesthetic content, compelling ideas, and a cohesive group of artists who adhere to the highest professional standards.
Their work is semi-abstract, with great visual interest in the textures and surface. Frequently, the abstract imagery is anchored in the suggestion of something solid, tangible, and identifiable. I find the balance between the two tendencies extremely engaging. Visitors to the gallery frequently remarked upon their desire to engage with the work, examine the details closely, even among those viewers who usually do not make a habit of attending art exhibitions. Carefully chosen additional materials such as ground marble, woodcut, oil, graphite, and paint greatly enriched the surfaces. The group also used inventive hanging methods, projecting translucent paper from the wall or exhibiting a single large work divided into sections. These hanging ideas were intelligently chosen, not arbitrary, they made sense with the content of the work.
Compelling conceptual content
These four artists are united by their concern for our survival on the planet in the age of climate change. They have witnessed subtle but increasingly dramatic changes in local and global ecological systems. Their work has been inspired by close observation of the natural world and human impact on soils, corals, vegetation, and our oceans. This close study of ecosystems has energized their work and increased their sense of urgency. This strong idea-based content is another way their work reached our viewers. We had many viewers comment on how their work communicated a passionate concern for the environment, and audiences noted the timeliness of the content. The strong aesthetic content drew the viewers in, the content made them linger.
Organization and Technical Issues
They made my job as the gallery director easy. They understood workflow issues in the gallery and voluntarily appointed one person as their first contact so that I didn’t have to communicate everything to all four artists. They worked out a preliminary layout of all the work themselves and submitted it in a timely manner. At our end, we had a chance to review their proposed layout and then make a few changes. Once the work was delivered, we had a few more suggestions in the layout and hanging of the work, and they welcomed our input.
In sum, these artists were a delight. They consistently maintained the highest technical standards, while their work remained innovative and aesthetically engaging. They were totally professional in all their interactions with our gallery staff.
It would be a pleasure to speak further about the artists. Please contact me at any time.
Catherine Wilcox-Titus, Ph.D.
Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery Director
Professor of Art
Worcester State University