Meet the CCAD alum curating Beeler Gallery’s latest show
For more than a year, lives have been turned upside-down as the novel coronavirus has spread around the world and concerns about COVID-19 infections led to the closure—sometimes temporary, sometimes permanent—of the very institutions such as galleries and performance venues that often function as places for people to gather, commune with each other, and share in the experience of meaningful works of art.
Life hasn’t yet returned to the “Before Times,” as many have come to call those pre-pandemic days, but now is an opportune time to begin to consider and reflect upon this disquieting period. And so comes Beeler Gallery’s newest exhibition—its first in more than a year—November. The show, which can be seen in-person by appointment, reflects on the 2020 experience, and particularly that of November 2020, when so much seemed uncertain, from the impact of the virus’ spread to the results of the U.S. Presidential Election.
Originally scheduled to open in November 2020, November remains the show’s title as a reminder of the month’s menacing hypothesis, its prophetic realization, and the suspended gratification that we are still navigating. The immersive lens-based exhibition was curated by CCAD alum Heather Taylor (Cinematic Arts, 2015); its participating artists are: Dru Batte, Natasha Cantwell, Cameron A. Granger (Cinematic Arts, 2016), Kalaktive collaborative duo (Bahareh Khoshooee and Sareh Imani), Dawn Kim, Susu Laroche, Bobby T Luck, Calista Lyon, Adee Roberson, Lexie Smith, and Benjamin Willis. It comes to CCAD’s Beeler Gallery as part of a collaboration with the Cincinnati-based nonprofit FotoFocus.
Below, Taylor discusses the exhibition and how it came to be.
How did November originate? How does the final show compare to what you'd initially envisioned?
November originated from Tim Rietenbach, the Faculty Director of Galleries, asking if I was interested in curating the first show under his new position as the gallery’s director. We discussed having a group show that reflected loosely on the theme of 2020, with the support of FotoFocus Cincinnati.
The show turned out more beautiful than I could have imagined. I find myself lost within it, and that’s a feeling that I need right now. It’s video-heavy, which is the first for the gallery, and so there were some challenges that we faced at first, but overall it turned out gorgeously. The artists worked very hard.
Have you curated shows before this? What are the unique challenges presented by curating an exhibition in the midst of a pandemic?
I have never curated an art exhibition in a gallery before, only in a publication format. The challenges were keeping communication flowing with everyone involved, artists, gallery staff, CCAD staff, etc. A lot of communication needed to happen for this show to succeed during a time that we were all experiencing for the first time, planning a show at this scale during a pandemic. Also, for me personally finding the motivation while working full-time amongst the pandemic was difficult. We also had to consider how we would present the work, while keeping in mind COVID regulations and keeping everyone safe!
How did your CCAD education impact this project?
CCAD trained my eye for the skills I needed to build from to do what I’ve been doing since I graduated.
How did you come to select the artists whose work is on view in November?
Most of the artists I know personally or have been following on social media. Instagram is where I discovered most of the artists who are not local. I was witnessing the artists actively and thought they might want to present their work in the enormous, beautiful space Beeler Gallery provides.
What do you hope visitors to the show experience?
I hope visitors will be consumed by the show and walk out of the gallery with a sense of healing. Something positive to come out of the pandemic, something good that happened during the pandemic. Something to talk about with their friends and family. Something inspiring to share.
What is the range or type of works in the show?
Many of the works in the show are video-heavy and the pieces on view include video projected on the walls or displayed on monitors—even a piece projected on the ground, accompanied with photography work, a few sculptural elements, and a cacophony of sound.
How many pieces in all?
Essentially 12—one for each artist. A few artists included some sculptural elements. Calista Lyon has a room of vintage overhead projectors and Lexie Smith placed bread “bricks” under a plexiglass box, for example.
Any particularly striking pieces in the show? If so, could you describe them?
They are all striking! Calista Lyon’s room is bringing a nostalgic experience for people, which has been getting a positive response from visitors. Overall, the show feels like one body; it all works well together.
November, which features work by 12 emerging Columbus-based, national, and international artists, is on view at CCAD’s Beeler Gallery, 60 Cleveland Ave., by appointment through Saturday, March 6. Admission is free.
Photo, top: Heather Taylor photo by Chip Willis