Scarritt-Bennett through September 26
WORDS Megan Kelley
Our Chaotic Nature: Rebuilding Our Brokenness brings together written word, mixed-media works, and a deeply empathic connection to struggles and injustices both externally and internally imposed. Ashley Mintz’s thoughtful exploration into the trials we undertake and overcome creates a beautiful and hopeful expression of the human condition.
Mintz begins with applications of paint, creating a base layer which she builds up using materials including lace, scraps of art papers, “anything that will create texture. Sometimes I even apply paint onto something and then press it against the surface before pulling off, creating shapes.” These intuitive moments, originally abstracted, begin to form areas of focus, leading Mintz to pick out shapes, colors, and lines, pulling an image from the unconscious space. “The images I end up seeing often relate to issues I am working through or surrounded by,” says Mintz.
As a creative writer of spoken word poetry and song lyrics, Mintz discusses the nature of language: how certain words can weigh down an idea or distance the speaker from that weight. Mintz is conscious of how “we often want to talk about race, but we don’t know how to have that conversation. It’s easy for people to enter it defensively or to get triggered because we don’t even know ourselves where we have buried this trauma.”
This observation influences her inclusion of the written word as attentive and “poetic,” restrained in her choice of what and how much to include. The final edit is merged into the composition—sometimes with the act of repainting to move the image around to better engage the words—and written in a looping, personal style, humanizing the message.
“I like art that is raw and honest, but I want to use it to approach things that are hard to talk about. So I use words, but I understand that sometimes it’s easier to open a conversation using image. Images tackle complex ideas in a way that gets two people talking to each other.”
The pairing creates a visual dialogue between the phrase and the portrait, but one that is intended similar to theatre. The audience bears witness to the conversation between the two, seeing what is there even as they interpret to draw their own conclusions from the interaction.
“… trauma gets handed down in generations. It is expressed in all of these indirect forms, if it isn’t healed.”
This new body of work is a continuation of thought begun in a 2016 exhibition through Scarritt-Bennett. “I was exploring past and present themes of how blacks are treated in America, these modernized aspects of slavery,” says Mintz. “This work is also racially driven, but is more broad. There are themes that affect us all: poverty, mental illness, concepts of masculinity and femininity. And race, I come back and back again to race because ideas around race impact all of us.”
Mintz hopes that the universal nature of these themes will help build empathy across cultures and build awareness of the effects of racism in our own lives. “I see how certain family members were treated or their experiences due to race, and I feel that this trauma gets handed down in generations. It is expressed in all of these indirect forms, if it isn’t healed.”
The layers and layers of building in Mintz’s work echo these buried layers of trauma. “It’s part of the process to paint over, edit out, or add material as I figure out composition and look for the final image. The roots of social behaviors are also often hidden, painted over; we act out sometimes without knowing why we do these things.”
The bright colors, however, bring an element of hope for the healing. “Even when a painting’s subject or writing is more serious, I still tend to use bright colors. You can be bright and still draw attention to a serious subject.”
The work is focused on empathy. “Behavior is just people trying to do the best they can, coping in the ways they have learned to protect themselves. Any pain, any distance, hurt, it’s not personal,” says Mintz. “I do the content that I do so that I can do the work of healing myself and not pass on any more of that trauma. I hope it will help others become aware of where this trauma exists in their lives and communities, and together we can do this work of healing.”
Ashley Mintz’s exhibit Our Chaotic Nature: Rebuilding Our Brokenness is on view until September 26 at the Laskey Gallery on the second floor of the Laskey Building at Scarritt- Bennett Center, 1027 18th Avenue, Nashville. The gallery is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with a reception on July 9 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. More of Mintz’s work can be viewed at www.ashleymintz.weebly.com.