At Arrowmont we value moments of connection between people. Often those connections are established in workshops, in conversations over dinner, or during an Artists-in-Residence studio visit. But sometimes those connections are made in unexpected ways.
As the Gallery Manager, I have the opportunity to shape our galleries into spaces that spark inspiration, curiosity and dialog. In 2018, while making selections for the Wolpert Gallery, something magical happened. Two women applied for separate exhibitions – and while they work in completely different processes, I could see they spoke the same language with the same aesthetics and perspectives. It was a moment when I wondered if the two already knew each other; if they did not, I knew they absolutely needed to.
Helen Geglio and Angela Caldwell were selected to show together in the spring of 2019. After realizing how close they were geographically and how much they had in common, they decided to meet up in person. Naturally, a friendship and dialog emerged. Arrowmont has a tendency to do that for people. I was inspired to dig deeper and highlight this particular connection.
Kelsey Dillow– What has your relationship with Arrowmont been like up until this point?
Angela–I had heard about Arrowmont from instructors, had been very intrigued by your class offerings but never had a chance to attend. I knew about the galleries as my professor, Nicole Jacquard, had a show in one of the spaces.
Helen— I knew about Arrowmont, but had never been there. Several of my artist friends had studied at Arrowmont, and a close friend, who is a jeweler, sent me the link for the exhibit proposals. I put it on my “deadline list” and here we are.
KD–What was your reaction when you learned who you would be exhibiting with? Had you known of each other’s work previously?
A— I found out about being accepted the day after my birthday and the opening of my thesis show. It felt like one big exciting celebration. I was thrilled. As Helen put it, I kept pinching myself. I immediately Googled Helen’s name and was so intrigued by her work. I had not known Helen, even though we have a mutual acquaintance. I sent her an email and we started a conversation via email about our work and the exhibition.
H— I had hoped that I would be exhibiting with another artist, and rushed to the Internet to find out more about Angela and her work. We corresponded right after Kelsey sent us our acceptance news and arranged to meet sometime in the next few months. My husband Mike and I had lived in Bloomington while he was in grad school many years ago, and we enjoy visiting there. Little did we know that our son would take a new job at IU and move his family there last summer. Their new apartment was two blocks from Angela’s studio at the I Fell Building, so we all strolled over and were able to meet in person.
KD–What has your relationship been like since you were asked to show together? Have you found commonalities between the two of you?
A— Meeting Helen was like meeting someone very familiar. We discussed that we have a lot in common – sort of in reverse. She lives in Indiana but I think grew up in Michigan – is that right? I was born in Indiana but lived in Michigan for many years. Helen’s son now lives in Bloomington, where I live, so we’ve started a friendship and getting to know one another when she visits. Helen was a teacher for many years, as was I. Our materials are not exactly the same but I think we come at our work with similar concepts and are interested in expressing the history of what women do and the role women play through a common language.
H–Angela and I made an immediate connection, realizing that we did have a lot of overlaps in our lives and art practices. I think we both honor the ideas of women and work, and “women’s work”. Both of our visual approaches are abstract, but rooted in traditional materials and techniques. We are both Midwesterners, with ties to Michigan and Indiana. There is a rich textile history in this area that we have both tapped into. Angela has a commitment to her art practice and studio work that I admire.
KD–Can you speak a little bit about what your bodies of work are about? In Her Domain is a loaded title; can you unpack what it means to you?
A— A line from my statement is “I slept under generations’ old handmade quilts and crocheted doilies were everywhere.” This speaks to my fond memories but also to the power of what women make and the importance of that work. Not only about the beauty of creating but the strength it carries. If you’ve grown up in a family of women who “make”, you’ll understand the significance of the process, the sharing of knowledge. Even if this is not intimately familiar, one most likely recognizes the feminine nature of handcrafts and our work.
The word “domain” speaks to both territory and knowledge – which is so powerful. Growing up, I felt that women were somewhat sanctioned to specific roles, even though society was changing, and that to recognize the work women do – again, the beauty and importance, was to acknowledge the struggle and role women play in the home. Elevating these “crafts” to “art”, in a way, made them more valid.
H– I am interested in the lives of women and the connections between women, work and textiles. In the History of Toil series I began with a small piece from a turn-of-the-century sleeve, stained at the armpit, and thought about the endless cycle of domestic toil the women who came before us were locked into. I used historical fabric scraps and pieces of old clothing and table linens to tell their stories. In Her Domain, speaks to the work of women, then, and now, in these artworks.
KD–After getting to know each other’s work as women and as artists, what does it mean to show together? How do you feel the different bodies of work speak to each other?
A— There seems to be a commonality of process – a digging for meaning. I agree with Helen about the exhibition. The way Arrowmont has chosen to display our work is just lovely. There is a conversation going on with the work – the 2D nature of the quilts, next to the groupings of my 3D pieces. While functionality and style are different, the common techniques are visible when placed next to each other. One can see the shared theme with which we approach our work.
H–Digging for meaning is a powerful way to express that commonality. I think we are both searching for a personal connection to ideas and materials. I enjoy the juxtaposition of my flat, wall pieces with Angela’s sculptural artworks. Many thanks to Arrowmont and the Wolpert Gallery for bringing us together.
KD–One last, burning question. Do you have any hopes or plans to show your work together again in the future?
H–I have certainly been thinking about the possibility that Angela and I would find other opportunities to exhibit together, and perhaps with other women artists who are doing like minded work. I am confident that we will stay in touch and share art and friendship going forward.
A – finding that there are other women who see and feel and interpret their work in a similar manner is very comforting. Meeting Helen and seeing her work has enriched my life. I agree with Helen that there is more to be said and made with these concepts. My current work has turned a bit more gritty which I’m curious to see what develops. There is so much to be uncovered in this exploration and I would love to collaborate with Helen. It was Arrowmont who noticed a connection between our work without our knowing each other. It would be interesting to see what might develop between us and our work with intention.
Reading the responses between these two artists, I am reminded how important a sense of community is. Creative camaraderie and shared experiences are not only a joy to have, but also a crucial part of navigating this world together. I’m lucky to watch connections being made around me at Arrowmont, and humbled to create a space for them to happen. I hope you join us for a closing reception of In Her Domain on Friday, June 28th from 5-7pm.
In Her Domain is a two-person exhibition featuring work by Helen Geglio and Angela Caldwell. Both artists seek to honor and represent the work women do. This exhibition gives a unique perspective on the ways in which ideas of femininity, tradition and craft span across mediums.
Geglio’s quilts are composed of materials that have crossed hands for varying purposes throughout the years, creating a collective narrative that is visible in the work. Combining hundreds of fabric swatches made by numerous unknown women, Geglio elevates and honors the work they’ve done throughout history, while at the same time, shedding light on the shared female experience of hardship and domestic life.
Driven by a need to create pieces that are reflective of the work women do, Caldwell honors traditional female craft with a contemporary approach. Using a dreamy color palette combined with hard and soft materials, Caldwell creates objects of adornment that reflect and honor female makers who came before her. Each piece speaks to the skills her female elders passed down to her through a modern lens.