Hollis Hammonds / Sasha West (Awake in the Dark)

Thursday, Nov. 17–Saturday, Dec. 17

Curated by Michael Kellner
On view Nov. 17–Dec. 17, 2022 in Beeler Gallery’s Project Space
Opening reception 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17

Awake in the Dark is a multimedia exhibition resulting from a collaboration between visual artist Hollis Hammonds and poet Sasha West. The pieces begin what Timothy Morton calls “grief work,” articulating the experience of living in the midst of a fragile, changing ecosystem. Through self-interrogations, the artists question both individual and societal contributions to the environmental crisis. The work invites viewers to feel the thin line between shelter and wreckage, between natural and human-made disasters.

 Hammonds’ drawings reflect the melancholy and darkness manifest in West’s poems, asking us to reexamine the impact of elements when those elements are fed by human actions. Hammonds often draws inspiration from a fire that consumed her childhood home in Independence, Kentucky, when she was 15 years old. In the context of climate change, that displacement takes on new meaning. Rather than being an aberration of the past, the incident foretells a potentially apocalyptic future.

 West’s poems connect to the landscapes of ruin in Hammonds’ drawing, questioning our culture’s belief in limitless growth. Collapsing time, her speakers range across eras and historical events to try and articulate their role as witnesses in the first generation to feel palpably the effects of climate change (mere decades after global warming was first named). Her speakers work to name the complex spaces of responsibility, despair, and hope.

 Combining sound with sculptural installation and words with images, both artists offer their personal vantage points on the precipice of a forbidding future. The show opens liminal spaces where hard boundaries dissolve: past disasters forecast future ones, what is “civilization” becomes wilderness. Hammonds and West invite viewers to see anew their own part in making the physical world and, thus, the future.

About the artists

Hollis Hammonds is a multimedia artist whose work investigates social issues ranging from economic disparity to environmental degradation. Her dystopian installations have been widely exhibited at venues such as Women & Their Work, Redux Contemporary Art Center, Dishman Art Museum, and the Reed Gallery. Hammonds is a professor of Art and chair of the Department of Visual Studies at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX.

Sasha West is the author of Failure and I Bury the Body (Harper Perennial) and the forthcoming How to Abandon Ship (Four Way Books). Her first book won the National Poetry Series, the Texas Institute of Letters First Book of Poetry Award, a Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Fellowship, and it was selected as a best debut book by Victoria Chang for Poets & Writers. Recent poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Agni, Georgia Review, and the anthology The Long Devotion: Poets Writing Motherhood. She lives in Austin, TX, and is an associate professor of Creative Writing at St. Edward’s University. 

About the curator

Dr. Michael Kellner is an associate professor and director of CORE Studies at CCAD. As part of his creative research, he makes drawings and sound pieces by pulling apart the written scores of J.S. Bach and then putting them back together in systematic ways. He is inspired by iterative practices, graphic notation, and contemporary pop and avant-garde music. Additionally, he researches in the areas of care ethics, perception, and creativity, striving to not only think about what it means to bring something new into the world but under what conditions the new is allowed to flourish. Michael also serves as the Editor for the academic journal FATE (Foundations in Art: Theory and Education) in Review since 2021. Kellner is CCAD’s 2022 Teaching Excellence Award winner. Learn more at michaelkellnerart.com.