Friday, June 11, 2010

Conundrum of Curating

One of the joys and challenges in curating a show with diverse content is finding a common thread in order to tell a compelling story. Such is the case with my next exhibition planned for mid-September with its four female artists. How do I balance the tight technical skills of Joyce Zipperer's sculptural work with the loose hand of Yvette Kraft? What kind of dialogue is created between the somewhat explicit emotions found in Laura Elkin's portraits of powerful women and Claire Feng's subtle and quiet moments? And, then, how do I combine the work of all four in a narrative way? That's the conundrum of curating but also the thrill of it.

In early May, I visited the studio of Joyce Zipperer at her home in Springfield, Virginia. Strangely, I became aware of Joyce's work when, long ago, I purchased a small impressionistic painting of a sailboat in the bargain basement of Ruff-n-Ready on 14th Street NW. It was an early Joyce Zipperer (1963). I have to confess that I bought the painting primarily because it was orange. (I was going through an orange craze at the time.) I had the painting for over 15 years, and it continued to fascinate me.

Years later, I attended the opening of one of DCAC’s Wall Mountable shows and was surprised to find small, delicate sculptural pieces by Joyce there. I introduced myself and was won over by her warmth. She remains much the same today as she welcomed me to her home and studio.

Joyce has shown her work in DC (and beyond) for over 40 years and is represented by Zenith Gallery. Her work has focused on women’s costumes and clothing, particularly undergarments, and addresses the changing attitudes, morĂ©s, and trends in women’s wear. Using materials like stone, metal fabrics and thread, and welded steel over the years, her work has evolved from the heavy industrial look of her stone high-heels to the delicate bras, bikini sets, and garter belts that she likes to display on clotheslines.

To appreciate the work that goes into one bra or bikini or thong, even, you have to know that she hand-stitches and crochets these pieces with steel or copper wire. When you see her corsets and slips, you have an even greater appreciation for her technical skill. These pieces are extremely complex, yet her seams and joints are flawless. Her shoe series is no less impressive. Working from a single sheet of aluminum, she cuts her pattern, then bends, curls and pounds the shoes into completion.

I’m thrilled to include Joyce in the second exhibition of my selects series with Yvette Kraft, Laura Elkins, and Claire Feng. The exhibit opens September 16 at Studio B at Biagio Fine Chocolate. Mark your calendars and plan to attend.