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Collaborative Art Show Brings Together Two NHS Graduates

Published: March 2, 2017

NEW LONDON — “Collaborative Economy,” a joint art exhibition of works by Class of 2005 Newtown High School graduates Allison Hornak and Jessica Gaddis is on display through March 18 at Hygienic Art Galleries.

According to the show’s prospectus, the public is invited to view work that “we jointly constructed, as well as … days of performative action,” where viewers can watch their creative process as they work at the exhibit. Ms Hornak and Ms Gaddis have been building work in the space for six hours, from noon to 6 pm, on the Saturdays since the show opened in February. Remaining performance dates are March 11 and March 18.

The prospectus also offers the artists’ thoughts on “Collaborative Economy,” which states, “We are two people making things asking questions about the nature of making things. We both feel a need to reach out beyond even what is possible in our own studio practices. We hear the voices saying this is a time to transcend ourselves, to listen, to be a part among a greater whole.”

Through their prospectus they ask: “Is there any shape of value to the space between the personal and the political, and between what one knows, and doesn’t? ‘Collaborative Economy’ will attempt to locate such a space, or else — make one.”

 

Allison Hornak

“I’m a visual artist based in sculpture and performance and I use natural and found materials,’ Ms Hornak said.
Developing her art “took a long time after getting my BFA [from Montserrat College of Art in Massachusetts] — years of walking in the woods in Newtown, reading, and just toiling away.”

Although certain artists and shows have been influential, she said, “honestly after being in Boston and moving back to Newtown and getting back here,” the town and “my family has helped shape,” her work “with found elements and becoming a staunch environmentalist. And being vegan has set me on a path of delving into material for material’s sake.”

Describing the current exhibition in New London, Ms Hornak said there are pieces that are made from just her or just Ms Gaddis of their own style, while other pieces “have both our hands in it.”

Earlier in the winter the two had “traded pieces of work that we couldn’t figure out and struggled with, and we gave it to the other person to finish.” Those pieces are arranged like a gallery, she said. But they also have their work space where they will be for the next two Saturdays.

“We will be generating new work and making art together and possibly delving into work and improving things we had previously traded.”

What does she hope to express? Ms Hornak said, “Both of us have traditional training and we both have indoor studio space, but we both feel socially and politically we are kind of called together.” But reaching out competes with “the time we spent making things alone, so this is a very small baby step or a gentle small step trying to open up to each in our own way — to welcome in another person.”

The two have never collaborated together, until this exhibit, she said.

“It’s a step toward a risk or opening a window to let another in and see what happens. We hope over these Saturdays that questions and burdens or struggles” might be resolved, she said. Questions could be ideological, political, “or about the work right in front of you.” She also noted “the private struggles” put in another person’s hands to “see where that leads.”

Personally, Ms Hornak hopes to “breathe fresh air and let go of things and embrace the unknown and I hope to find an openness to continue collaborating.” She also aims to “get over the bravado that trickles down. I feel like that’s something I trip over, so I hope to be better at letting go of things. Some muscles are underdeveloped and I hope to stretch them.”

 

Jessica Gaddis

“I have always been an artist. I have always had a strong imagination, and am a natural dreamer,” said Ms Gaddis. For her, art is “not something that I just do within my life, it is my life.”

Recalling a conversation with Ms Hornak “in the gallery the other day, I would say my efforts are a pursuit of art.”

She has “many influences,” and enjoys art history. “Most recently I have been awestruck by the work of the lesser known Arte Povera artist Marisa Merz,” who she noted is “interested in the intersections of art and daily life.”

A new pursuit of Ms Gaddis is “to make sculptures that can be easily broken down and transported and stored.” She refers to the “slickness of the word sustainability today,” and wants to think of it as “a word that doesn’t just apply to climate change. But as I merge my daily life and my pursuit of art, how can I make works that are not just ‘plop sculptures?’”

She prefers to make pieces “that are not a burden to cart around but can open up, scale up and hold presence in a space.”

She hopes “to navigate the layers of collaboration” with Ms Hornak, she said. “Collaborative Economy,” she said, creates the opportunity “to witness our collaborations in real time. We are painting, drawing, assembling, writing, reading, and talking in the gallery. This is a vulnerable experience, because the viewer sees both our curated finished pieces, alongside works that might not be completed in time to be displayed.”

The show is “in flux and we are allowing ourselves the opportunity to take things off the wall and continue working on them,” Ms Gaddis said. “Viewers also have the opportunity to listen to our passionate discussions of art; what it is, who contributes to it, their stories and what the critics and art historians have to say about it.”

Through the collaborative process, “we are learning about ourselves as we learn about each other — and the gallerygoer has the opportunity to see this.”

Referring to the art pieces they gave to one another to finish or continue, she said, “Exchanging works with [Ms Hornak] has been so freeing for my process. I highly recommend it for artists, especially if they are feeling stuck.” They exchanged works “that did not feel completed, or we were not attached to. I felt free to approach a work without worrying about the outcome. We also both appreciate each other’s style, so there is a level of trust in handing over my works to her and vice versa.”

Ms Gaddis is “an advocate of art for art’s sake. Making without expectation opens up so much room for possibility.” She is a 2009 SUNY graduate.

Hygienic Art Gallery, 79 Bank Street in New London, is open Tuesday through Friday, 2-7 pm; Saturday, 11 am-7 pm; and Sunday, 12-4 pm. Additional information about the exhibition, including directions to the gallery, is available at hygienic.org.

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