Artists at 3rd Street Gallery confront loss, healing, life and death
Knight Foundation
By CSchwartz
Published 05/14/2013

Two artists at the 3rd Street Gallery approach their (mostly) fiber-based artworks with similarly heavy-handed topics that are poignant and at times quite emotionally charged. Carol Wisker and Melissa Maddonni Haims split the space and fill the interior with textile creations which, although loosely related, address concepts that are not so easily put into words.

Haims creates a site specific installation, which includes performance elements, entitled “Offering.” The project is intended to pay draw on the many forms of respect and memorial that grieving individuals use to remember and connect during their time of loss. The installation is especially heart-wrenching since Haims constructed it for her friend Melissa Mary Benner, who was killed by a drunk driver little more than a year to the day prior to the show's opening.

Melissa Maddonni Haims fills the corner of the gallery with crocheted rocks as part of "Offering."

As temporal creatures, we all encounter the loss of those close to us and the accompanying grief that sometimes lingers. Although we may feel alone in our sadness, coming to terms with mortality is something we are all faced with, and each of us has our own ways of expressing our emotions related to this healing process. Haims attempts to tap into the universal aspects of this experience and also traces her own very personal journey as she embarks down this path.

The focal point of the exhibit is a corner piled high with crocheted stones, reminiscent of those left on grave sites by mourners. They are rounded as if weathered by a stream over time and also call to mind whimsically skipping stones in youth. We are reminded of the short and magnificent time we are all afforded on this planet and how tenuous this existence really is, despite our day-to-day concerns. Haims will come to the gallery space from 12 - 3 p.m. every day throughout May to continue crocheting and adding to the pile as an offering to Benner.

Elsewhere, Haims includes photographs of the many locations she visited and that helped her connect to her departed friend – places where Benner lived, worked, walked and breathed – in order to inform her otherwise meditative assembly of plush rocks. Objects related to their relationship, photos, Buddhist prayer flags, candles and a short eulogy on a nearby wall provide insight into the artist's feelings, as well as lend understanding to anyone else who may be similarly suffering.

Carol Wisker occupies the front of the gallery with her fiber forms, which alternately examine life, growth and adaptation. Overwhelmingly white in color, these constructions are strangely fluffy and cloud-like at times, but ovoid and egg-like at others. One deviation that happens to be particularly riveting is “Burn,” a charred, vertically standing log wrapped in bright red yarn at its base. Between the wrapping and the blackened wood are a number of expended bullet casings in different sizes. This piece rightfully seems like a memorial itself, warning us to be cautious of our power and our motivations, while simultaneously hinting at the phrase “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

 Others elevate cow bones to the level of god by holding them aloft and displaying them as if upon an altar. “Bovine Deity” reminds us that we are animals too, and in our hurry we often forget how to treat our living cousins – plants and animals alike – with respect. Its bulbous central form is globe-like and calls to mind our Mother Earth by way of microcosmic revelation and life-bringing fullness.