John Donovan | Jessica Wohl
John Donovan: New Personal Best!
New Personal Best! continues Donovan's line of inquiry that combines the playful nature of toys and the innocence lost in our conflict-laden culture.
Donovan's latest body of work consists of ceramic sculptures based on pre-Columbian and Chinese Han dynasty-era ceramic figures. The idea of the figures as accessorized toys is balanced with a prevailing historical record that champions war and aggression.
John Donovan is a sculptor who moved to Nashville from the Gulf Coast eleven years ago. His primary medium of choice is clay; chosen for its accessibility and familiarity to viewers and also because of the traditional expectations associated with ceramics as a “craft medium.” Images hand-built and molded from toys invoke an innocence that is juxtaposed with conflict and loss of innocence. Although there is a lot of humor in the work it also comments on the violent and complicated nature of our culture. According to the artist:
“My work is as much defined by the after school cartoons I grew up watching like the Transformers and G.I. Joe as it is by my current concerns which include raising children in a media-saturated world and a relentless fear of growing up myself. I enjoy creating tension between the initial lighthearted appearance of the image and a subterranean tone of distress or alarm. The work, when done well, can be both threatening and playful at once, a classic dichotomy often encountered in daily life.”
This is John Donovan’s third solo Zeitgeist show. His work has been featured in the last New Orleans Prospect One shows, the Frist Center for Visual Art, the Fugitive Art Center, and Ruby Green. He is currently teaching 3-D Design and Ceramics at Middle Tennessee State University and has served as an instructor with the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts.
Jessica Wohl: Letting Go
Minnesota-native and Sewanee professor Jessica Wohl has recently been featured in a number of shows around the southeast and NYC. Her work traditionally combines figurative elements with items and processes associated with domestic/suburban lifestyles. This outing finds her using fabric and sewing techniques as painting.
"When one has said all there is to say, what remains is merely silence upon which to reflect.
It is against this backdrop that these works were created. Letting Go is my farewell to the sordid love affair I have with picture-perfect domestic life and the dark underbelly of suburban America. Stained scraps of old clothes and used linens reveal traces of lives lived in the home, and with the sewn line, combine in what is possibly the most formal work I have made. These colorful abstractions are the final shedding of this skin, where my conceptual inquiry and emotional confusion graciously, and subtly, give way to resolution and clarity.
Making this work is like saying goodbye to an ailing grandmother. I sew tediously, without thinking, to escape the vacancy that will soon be left in her wake. The vibrant colors recall her livelihood as I watch her fade away. There’s still a spark in her eyes– she can still crack a dirty joke, and yet, her body is frail. Her skin hangs and sags. Her eyes droop. Her dark hair turns gray. There are strange smells when there were not any before. Her voice quiets. Soon all that will be left is a physical body without a soul, and I am taking in her last breaths before she’s gone…peacefully."