Ephemeral
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featuring 3 artists addressing the importance of “now”

 

“The notion of ephemeral, usually defined as ‘lasting a very short time, short-lived or transitory’ has been under consideration in the back of my mind in recent months,” says gallery director and nonobjective painter Blair Vaughn-Gruler. “For one thing, as climate-related changes take up permanent residence in my consciousness, I realize that I myself am much more ephemeral than I had previously been willing to recognize.”

 

Addressing this theme, GVG Contemporary has curated an exhibition headlining two artists new to the gallery, c marquez and Kaline Carter, along with multimedia artist Elle MacLaren. From marquez’s installations made entirely from the seed pods and stems of a single plant to Carter’s sandpaper-based architectural geometrics to MacLaren’s use of ripped cardboard with encaustic—these artists convey the profound, transitory, and ever-changing nature of existence.

Vaughn-Gruler points to a description at vocabulary.com that states ephemeral is “like a fly that lives for one day or text messages flitting from cellphone to cellphone,” which broadens the notion into a huge range of possibilities, from insect bodies to digital communication to virtual presence. “These are connections I hadn’t really made before, and putting bugs and texts and tweets in the same stew pot has been provocative,” Vaughn-Gruler says. “Now is what we actually really have. This Buddhist tenant has been driven home more lately in a visceral way with the pandemic, the climate, and the changes to our lifestyles and habits.”

c marquez

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Kaline Carter

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The three artists headlining this show intersect with diverse interpretations of ephemerality. Each is also taking a foray into implementing what is typically thought of as “low to the ground” materials to create art. “It’s satisfying to make something out of what is commonly considered nothing,” comments Vaughn-Gruler, “and even more so to admit that the idea of ‘high art’ and the preciousness and glorification of commodity are just as ephemeral as a river, flowing temporarily in a long, dry river bed.”

At a trying time for the planet and for all of humanity, the idea of ephemeral couldn’t be more pertinent. Perhaps the simplest synonym for “ephemeral” is simply “existence.” As marquez says, “I think that artists can be the voice of what’s important. We have a platform to speak from, and we have to be careful about our message—now more than ever.”

Elle Maclaren

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From The Curator

c marquez

c marquez‘s installation includes 521 elements made from the seed pods and stems of the tall tumble mustard plant, referencing the number of weeks slated to the survival of the endangered New Mexican jumping mouse.

Kaline Carter

Kaline Carter captures the fleeting geometries of New York City architecture in light and shadow, using sandpaper, tape, and other ephemeral materials to create gridded color fields.

Elle MacLaren

Elle MacLaren explores the motion of memory over time and how our emotions are dynamically tied to place with encaustic paintings that incorporate cardboard and other elements of collage.

The fragility of species and ecosystems has long occupied the thoughts of installation artist c marquez, who was recently recognized by Southwest Contemporary magazine as one of “12 Artists to Know Now in New Mexico.” marquez describes their relationship with their singular medium, the locally abundant tall tumble mustard plant (a good old tumbleweed), as “monogamous.”

 

Assembled from its pods and stems is 521, a network of 521 orbs that reference the nests of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, expected to go extinct by 2024. This was announced in 2014, and marquez built the piece to reference the 521 weeks allotted to the animal’s survival. Deterioration is part of the installation as the plant darkens over time. “The material itself is about living in the air, in the wind. I aspire to be light, strong, and free,” says marquez. “Scattering seeds. That’s its nature as it moves through the world. I want to preserve this level of singularity of the plant.” They also point out that the work challenges notions about art. “Can you deal with impermanence?” they ask.

With a BFA in graphic design, marquez had a stint as a package designer before they did an MFA at Vermont College of Arts. They moved to Taos about a decade ago. “I began de-industrializing my materials, using found materials and making pigments from things like blueberries, chile, coffee, and charcoal,” they say. “Previously I needed to ship my materials and that’s just not where I wanted to be in a world ridden with carbon expenditure.” Meanwhile, tumbleweed kept accumulating outside their front door. “I kept kicking it out of the way for years,” they say. “Then my thinking changed.”

 

Using a diverse array of attachment techniques that make use of the ridged, Velcro-liked surface of the seedpod, they attach these without any other adhesive materials to cross-sections of stem, aiming for a certain “click of tension.” As in 521, marquez’s work plays with numbers and their significance. Titles add up to the number 8, representing infinity. “This nonpermanent work of mine still intends to have an infinite realm unto itself,” they comment.

This installation is specific to this point in time, with spheres that represent remaining weeks predicted for the mice on the wall while about half of the material is on the floor, indicating the weeks the species has already lost. marquez points out that some of the circles overlap, indicating when the groups of mice—who live along the Rio Grande and exist as small family groups—coincide. When this happens, they are far more likely to intermingle, keeping the gene pool healthy.

 

Working on a minute detail is often the first thing marquez does in the morning. “Every detail is going to make a difference in the big scheme,” they say, which is a nod to their understanding of the preciousness of each part of a dynamic ecological system. “There’s also something about the repetitive process of what I do. It’s meditative.” It’s also helped marquez move from a resigned stance on the climate crisis to one that is more hopeful. “I see a trend in people doing more work like this and that’s promising.” Meanwhile, marquez expects to continue using solely this material. “I have a love affair with this plant,” they laugh. “It’s ongoing.”

In contrast to marquez’s networks of raw material, Kaline Carter’s aesthetic is of urban origin. Inspired by architecture from Los Angeles to New York City, his gridded, color-field multimedia paintings also include glassine paper, black sandpaper, and vinyl reflector tape. A media consultant with Collector’s Guide and Southwest Art, travel is a big part of Carter’s life.

 

Yet his relationship with art has been volatile over time. He left an undergraduate program he started at Parson’s in New York and ended up years later with a MBA at University of New Mexico. For a long time he abandoned the artistic ambitions of his youth, until a mentor (and client), Anne Crouch of Amarillo, came into his life and literally made him paint if he wanted her to listen to a pitch. When she passed away in 2017, he realized he had no more time to waste, and since, he spends every free moment in his obsessively organized Albuquerque studio, making straight lines and gridded color fields in the tradition of Josef Albers and Agnes Martin (a lot harder than one may think).

 

Carter’s series is both a continuation and a departure from his bold-color grid paintings. Using far more ephemeral materials like sandpaper, but still incorporating his smooth use of diluted acrylics, he’s aiming to capture the architectural details he witnessed during a trip to New York City.

 

“It was a quick trip but I kind of fell back in love with the city,” he says. “I just had these quick views of things—the way a shadow falls across the edges and textures of a building—moments that will never be exactly the same again and that gradually change with the light and seasons.”

 

Carter’s interested in using sandpaper to capture the earthy, grainy textures and gradients of light and shadow, which shift our perception of color. Trending to more natural and neutral tones than his more typical use of bold color, these geometric expressions indicate that even in architecture, the temporary nature of existence prevails.

Elle MacLaren is interested in more emotional moments that are similarly tied to time and place. Her new series of paintings is centered on significant time spent in lakeside Northern Michigan. “These are expressionistic snapshots of memories,” she says. They also address the changing seasons and moods of the natural world. For instance, Michigami, September, with turquoise water, white sand, and surrounding pines, has partner pieces for August and other times of the year.

 

MacLaren, who grew up in Michigan, raised her family in Boulder, Colorado, and has lived in Santa Fe for seven years, also spent a year and a half on Lake Michigan more recently. “I always call it ‘my lake,’” she jokes, in reference to how Georgia O’Keeffe called Pedernal “my mountain.”

 

Yet it was not until recently that MacLaren began incorporating collage more significantly into her encaustic repertoire. “The ripped edges of paper and cardboard create a fibrous situation that’s like a brushstroke,” she observes, “while clean cuts create lines. It’s giving my work a deeper perspective of background and foreground with overlapping edges.” It’s also taking her expressionistic abstractions of memory, emotion, and place to a more sculptural realm.

 

MacLaren’s work adds another perspective to the idea of ephemeral in this exhibition. “So much of my work is the feeling of memory, not just the memory itself, and in a way that’s not fleeting at all,” she muses. “But it does change over time.” Indeed, one can almost feel the ripple of wind across her corrugated cardboard dunes and the weathering of planked cottage walls in her lakeside paintings. Ultimately, MacLaren suggests that our emotional lives and consciousness are fully integrated with the natural world.

Thank you for joining us for our first-ever virtual exhibition.  All of the works here are for sale, and we hope that you find them meaningful and will consider making a purchase in support of our artists’ important work.

 

We began creating this exhibition months ago, before the global pandemic changed all of our lives. Since then, the theme has taken on new meaning. During this trying time for the planet and all of humanity, we are experiencing a collective reminder of the fragility of existence.

 

Paying attention to the moments, the shadows, the tumbleweeds, and the nuances in all our relationships has helped to make meaning and bring comfort to all of us affiliated with GVG Contemporary as we explore our own ephemerality.

 

Thank you for sharing a bit of this journey with us.

 

Blair Vaughn-Gruler | Ernst Gruler | Christina Procter | GVG Contemporary