Julia Martin Gallery | August 6–31
by Peter Chawaga
Seemingly disparate pieces of artwork can come together in strange ways, the differences acting as foils that bring each into sharp relief or the similarities finding a harmony that was buried below the surface.
Oil & Mud, an exhibition coming to the Julia Martin Gallery in WEHO, promises to explore this interplay with the substantively divergent work of two friendly artists who share aesthetic values and new approaches to old media.
Delia Seigenthaler and Emily Holt have worked together for over a decade teaching art at University School of Nashville. They have found that they can rely on one another as collaborative partners in the classroom, most recently leading students in a year-long project on the art of puppet making. They’ve also found success exhibiting their personal work together several times in recent years.
“We work pretty closely together every day during the school year so we’re constantly talking and bouncing ideas off of each other, either projects for the students or our own art ideas,” said Holt. “We both incorporate a lot of that art interest into our teaching, and that influences our work with the students. I would say we have a pretty close aesthetic connection.”
While they may share a creative wavelength, the results can be quite distinct. For Oil & Mud Seigenthaler will present a series of clay heads inspired by her recent work with students on large-scale processional puppets.
“These heads are ceramic objects, material things that are static but still express ideas of the mind and spirit,” reflected Seigenthaler. “For me working on them, they almost control me more than I control them as far as that ability to believe that the spirit emerges during the process of construction. That’s really the fascinating thing about working with the head or the human face: It does stare back at you, and you respond to it.”
Meanwhile, Holt will exhibit paintings and mixed media consisting of layers of paint, cut paper, and wax.
“I use a lot of tools to scratch into the paint, and I would like people to look closely at them and see things, see the tiny marks,” Holt said. “They’re imaginary landscapes, so viewers can come up with a story in their heads. They’re an illustration to whatever story you see.”
Despite the differences in presentation, there is a common thread that may unify the collections. Both artists are returning to media that they once favored but put aside to explore new avenues. Seigenthaler originally studied ceramics as an art student but had lately shifted her focus to mixed-media pieces. Holt’s return to painting marks the end of a years-long hiatus.
“I haven’t painted in several years, and I know Delia hasn’t made clay sculptures in several years, so in a way we’re both revisiting these media that we sort of started with,” Holt explained.
Julia Martin, owner of the gallery, said she has been a fan of the two artists for “most of my adult life” and has presented their work in group exhibitions in the past.
“Delia and Emily each have a style uniquely their own, yet both play in otherworldly subject matter that speaks directly to my heart,” Martin said. “It is not hard to imagine Seigenthaler’s characters strolling through Holt’s vignettes, and their palettes have always played beautifully off of one another.”
This being art, any patterns or exchanges between the collections are only important as they provoke thought and heighten the visual sense. Parallels or distinctions will ultimately be decided by individual perception. As for the artists themselves, similarities and differences alike make for a productive combination.
“Our work is different, but we definitely have similar ideas about making art,” said Seigenthaler. “We work really well together.”
Oil & Mud will open at Julia Martin Gallery, 444 Humphreys Street, with a reception on August 6 and remain on view until August 31. For more information, visit www.juliamartingallery.com.