“Yours in struggle” is a typical sign-off used by justice and peace activists throughout the years. It’s no coincidence that it’s also the title of Garner Narrative Contemporary Fine Art‘s first exhibit of 2017. The group show features work from 10 local and regional artists.
Insider caught up with gallery director and curator Angie Reed Garner to find out what inspired the exhibit and how art can comfort and galvanize — especially during the current climate of political unrest and fear.
“This show is a love letter to people who are trying to figure out how to make things better,” says Garner. She hopes the nearly 20 pieces also will help uplift and heal. “Struggle needs art. Struggle needs the intuitive coherence — the new stories — artists can offer. Struggle also needs our challenge to too much coherence — when the story gets stale and easy and shoves too many people out of the way and off the stage.”
The artists participating in the show include Tim Crowder, gallery owner Joyce Garner, Donté K. Hayes, Liwen Lin, MaLynda Poulsen, Bill Pusztai, Windi Rosson, Aleksandra Stone, Keith Stone and Garner herself. And the themes range from racism and transphobia to surveillance and all things Donald Trump.
Yet while the title and themes of “Yours in Struggle” might suggest harsh, polarizing images, Garner says the show is a mix of looking outward and in, of pain and of joy.
“Contemporary narrative work can ask us to empathize, to relate across differences or to look at ourselves. This isn’t always painful — it can be joyful and liberating,” she explains. “When I got all the work up for this show, I realized it was … gentle. Not every artist in the show conceives of herself as being ‘in struggle’ in the sense of political activism. Some are just telling their own stories as best they can. Of course, as soon as art goes up on a gallery wall (virtual or plaster), it’s political.”
As an artist herself, Garner is approaching the new year by making sure there’s a clear divide between her activist work and what she paints — even though the two tend to blur at times.
“Good visual propaganda — think of an editorial cartoon — is simple, immediate and accessible. It’s also produced on a brutally short timeline. So it’s hard to do, and it’s not what I personally do,” she says. “If a painting of mine seems to offer an easy takeaway, give the credit to the viewer, not me. I’m trying to explore and come to terms with certain realities a little bit better. I try to let risky and messy and unresolved subjects stay that way.”
Garner likes to get involved with the world around her to form her own opinions from first-hand experiences, and that often reflects in her art as well.
“My activist work takes some pressure off my painting practice; painting takes some pressure off of me,” she says. “Because I cope and agitate a whole lot better when I’ve seen what’s going on.”
There’s a reason “Yours in Struggle” is a group show — and it’s because “we don’t, can’t and won’t do this work alone,” adds Garner.
The exhibit continues through Jan. 27 at Garner Narrative, 642 E. Market St. An opening reception is planned for Friday, Jan. 6, from 6-9 p.m.