Gallery Stokes has become a labor of love for Dayna Thacker, who started curating shows in the space in June 2007. She readily admits she had little knowledge of curatorial practices when she began the gallery, but with advice from friends and lots of hard work, she turned Gallery Stokes into a place that continually featured inventive exhibits. The current show, Kung Fu by Todd Schroeder, sadly is the last for the exhibition space.
Gallery Stokes is located in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood in a building that once was a cap and gown factory. Owner Tracy Bergquist offered the space to Thacker to exhibit her own art. Thacker had recently moved to Atlanta from Savannah with her husband, a printmaking professor at SCAD, and was having difficulty breaking into the local art scene. The two reached an agreement that Bergquist would provide the space and Thacker the labor. The name is slightly misleading, since Gallery Stokes is not a traditional gallery that represents artists. Thacker prefers the term “exhibition space” because it has a “freedom from economic reality.” She rarely made money, but that was never the point.
Thacker’s goal was to introduce new artists to the Atlanta art scene. She showed a variety of work and promoted artists that otherwise might not have been given an opportunity to exhibit. Thacker says she is proud of all twenty-eight shows that she mounted at Gallery Stokes, adding that with the exposure of the Castleberry Hill Art Strolls, many people who normally wouldn’t enter an art gallery stop by. The opportunity to expose those unfamiliar with the local art scene has become one of Thacker’s favorite things about Gallery Stokes.
Three of Thacker’s favorite shows from over the years are: Stuart Keeler’s Social Exchange in June 2008, Steve Jarvis’ Potenital Inevidentability Systems #1 (Provisioning) in January 2008, and Heidi Aishman’s You Can’t Win That! in March 2009. Each received a good response from the community and challenged people’s expectations of what art could be. For example, Keeler’s exhibit became like a boutique where people took their favorite pieces of clothing and exchanged them for someone else’s. By involving the community and pushing the envelope of what is acceptable, these types of shows made Gallery Stokes stand out in the Atlanta art scene.
Gallery Stokes’ final show, which features the work of SCAD professor Todd Schroeder, does not disappoint. Schroeder was mystified by the news of David Carradine’s death in June 2009, specifically its seemingly mysterious circumstances. In time, information was revealed about Carradine’s sexual habits, and his death is now widely accepted as accidental asphyxiation.
Schroeder focused his work on Carradine’s best-known role as Kwai Chang Caine in Kung Fu, a 1970s television series. The idea behind the work is intriguing, but Schroeder’s talents lie in his process and mastery of technique to produce a variety of textures among different materials. The highlights of the show are being non being 3-13, made from pieces of aluminum. Schroeder started with an image of Carradine he created, poking holes in the metal to recreate the image. Each piece builds upon the last, until the image becomes unrecognizable. This process is like a ritual, similar to kung fu, which Carradine also practiced; some would say Carradine’s sexual behavior was also like a ritual. The formal qualities alone, however, make the work worth a final trip to the gallery.
Thacker was conflicted about closing Gallery Stokes. She wanted more time to focus on her own art, which she describes as collage, assemblage, and installation work that deals with systems of information that define our world. Although making money was never the goal, the labor of creating new shows once a month without pay became taxing.
What’s next for Thacker? She has a solo show of her own work opening at Barbara Archer in May. She also admits she has been bitten by the curating bug and is working on a project with the new local non-profit, Public Acts of Art. No decision has been made about what the Gallery Stokes space will become, although Thacker suggests it will probably no longer be an art gallery. When asked if she succeeded in achieving her goal of giving unrepresented Atlanta artists a “thorough introduction” to the local scene, Thacker confidentially answered, “I have.”
Todd Schroeder’s Kung Fu will be on view during the Castleberry Hill Art Stroll on February 12. The show, and the gallery, will close on February 19.