“Every artwork is a self-portrait,” says Yuko Nogami Taylor, an artist at 5 Points Gallery, formerly the Pleiades Gallery. In 5 Points’ exhibition, POSSIBILITIES, the fresh angles with which two artists view their world attest to this particular statement—Jenny Blazing, an artist with a focus lens on the ephemeral beauty of the world, and Teddy Devereux, an avid lover of glass art who retired from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Jenny Blazing has been using a process she calls “artistic propagation” for seven years. This process involves the usage of collage paper with images of her finished painting in her new works. Blazing said, “It [artistic propagation] came to me when I was on a long road trip. I hear from some other creators that some of their best ideas come to them when they are not trying to come up with ideas, and that’s what happened to me.”
Blazing’s artistic philosophy stemmed from her value in authenticity. “I believe, centrally, that by mining my own imagination and responses to the world, I make the most genuine and unique contribution. I see myself as creating my own context, my own philosophy. With this in mind, it is natural for me to look at my own works from language and ideas that inform future works. As my ideas and processes build on one another, I have a sense of propagation throughout my artistic journey,” she says.
Blazing’s work “The Seeker” is arguably one of the most thought-provoking pieces in this exhibition. The streak of yellow stretching across the canvas can be interpreted in more than one way—as a path or as a ray of light—due to the ambiguity that Blazing intentionally created. She explains that she had no specific things in mind about what the seekers are looking for, but instead tried to convey a metaphysical sense of longing.
“That’s what I’m hoping to talk with people—to get them to contemplate what, as individuals, are we aware of in our lives that we are seeking, and is that really the path for us. Are we fulfilled? Are we attuned to [however we interpret our philosophies of the world]?” Pausing, she referred to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” “For some people, they may be wondering: is there another path?”
Another work by Blazing, “Metropolis,” is part of the Building Worlds series that illustrates a concept of time-lapse and humanity’s impact on the planet, particularly since industrialization. Blazing, an environmentally conscious artist, finds herself grappling with communicating the environmental message and reaching purely artistic aims. In this piece, she has found that balance. “[Knowing] that the process I’m using is going to convey the message enough in Building Worlds gives me the artistic freedom that I feel compelled by,” she reflects.
When asked about what unique environmental issues she noticed here in Durham, she points out that the Durham City Landfill was closed in 1994. “So,” she says, “[the trash] ended up going to a landfill that’s in Sanford County. Eight to twelve [semi-trucks] carrying waste travel 200 miles round trips to Sanford County every day. This is our only option for waste disposal. But, as citizens, we need to know that huge inefficiency in terms of contribution to the warming of the planet. ”
Teddy Devereux shares with Blazing in her awareness of climate change, as evident in her work “Beauty and the Beast.” Here, “beauty” is the scenery, and “beast” is climate change. Devereux shares her real-life encounters with glacial melting: “I could remember, in the early 1980s, going to a glacier in northern Canada. There was a pathway that led from the road to the edge of the glacier, and it had year markers. At the road, for instance, it had the year 1865. Closer to the actual glacier is where the glacier was a hundred years ago. It becomes a long way before you get to the glacier [from the road] because that was how much melting [the glacier] had.”
On a different trip to Alaska, she saw the glaciers melting—blue rivers coming down on top of them, and heard the caving of the icebergs into the water. “A lot of times, seeing is an awakening to what is happening,” she says.
Using glass as a medium, Devereux can preserve the versatility of waters in such works as “Swimming with the Fish.” “It can sit in a window and people can see through it [from] different angles. I like the way the light hits it.” Further, she is attracted by the experimental aspect of fuse glass, stating how fascinating the chemical reactions between glass materials cause a change of color. One notable piece of her science art made with fused glass, “Slice of Life 1,” will be on exhibition in 5 Points Gallery after the third Friday of October.
A multitude of diverse experiences of the artists is hidden beneath the canvas (or glass, for that matter) at 5 Points Gallery’s current exhibition. Contemplating them is an expansion of the parameter we use to perceive the world.
The current exhibition POSSIBILITIES at 5 Points Gallery ends Oct. 15
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