Art is still going up on the walls of the airplane hangar-like space of the Notch8 Gallery. Artist Tiffany Charesse watches, smiling and satisfied, as her work is hung. One of those pieces is of a modern dancer —tank top, jeans and ballet flats rendered in delicate pastels. The dancer’s knees are bent, he is up on his toes with his arms outstretched. This image repeats in a pattern that stretches all around the picture — the dancer holding hands with himself over and over.
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“I knew early on that I wanted to create patterns using figurative drawings,” Charesse explains. “I wanted to convey the idea of being stretched — being stretched thin, being stretched to your limits. Those are just different things you may feel while you’re unraveling or going through something.”
Unraveling could be thought of as destructive or as a relief. Charesse and the other four artists behind “Unravel: The Journey Back to Purity” are presenting their interpretations on that theme. The concept came out of conversations between the artists facilitated by Notch8.
“We were all wrapped up in our own personal dramas and then the national climate which felt scary,” Jacksonville, Florida artist Shaun Thurston says. “It was trying to dismantle those things and trying to remove some of these heavy weights that were on us to get back to doing artwork for the creative fulfillment and the pure joy of it. So unraveling seemed like a good way to do that.”
This collaborative group show is a specialty of Notch8, which lets its artists determine the direction for its shows.
“So we all come up with something that we feel we can contribute to rather than trying to change your shape into fitting a theme,” contributing artist Pash Lima says.
“Notch8 was more about the artists coming together to sculpt the idea,” Thurston chimes in.
From there, each artist interpreted the ideas of unraveling and purity in their own way. Artist Lela Brunet in particular had a lot on her mind in those initial conversations.
“I hadn’t really told anyone yet, but I was pregnant with my first child,” she says, smiling. “And this was something I was keeping very very private. And to me that was a very special time in my life. And to be creating these works during this process with my body and preparing myself for a different life … to be able to create a series based on that was amazing for me.”
Brunet’s work is based around images of her young sisters and the different perspectives they each represent between being a child and being a teenager. The work is heavily patterned and that, coupled with the bright fluorescent color scheme, gives her work an air of optical illusion — the young girls, and perhaps the artist, still concealing some secrets.
While the show includes instances of order and serenity, Lima’s work stands out as a brash counterpoint. One large canvas contains a pastiche of imagery centered on the profile of a young black man. His face is tied on like a mask with a lit fuse emerging from the top of his head.
“I like doing profile shots just because it kind of shows motion.” Lima says. “Kind of reminiscent of hieroglyphics. Side profiles to show chronological order, like a timeline.”
That chronology — the thinking about what’s next — is vital in an image so rooted in the violent present. And it’s coincidental but worth mentioning that this painting by Lima hangs opposite of Charesse’s modern dancer. It’s not hard to imagine both figures in conversation with each other. Elsewhere on Lima’s canvas, crosses seem to grow, tall and thin, from the background. He’s left pencil marks, sketching out more imagery which is intentionally left unfinished, as if saying to the viewer, “We’re not sure how this is going to unravel. Where we go from here is up to you.”
“Unravel” opens Friday, May 12 at 7 p.m. at the Notch8 Gallery in South Atlanta and runs through June 4.