Field Companions at Atlanta Contemporary

By May 12, 2022
a white gallery with hanging objects including a pair of black headphones, hot water bottle, an extension chord, a picture of a church.
Installation view, Field Companions. Photography by Mike Jensen.

Mycelia are the large root systems for fungal colonies. Hidden from our view, they exist as complex underground networks, ranging from microscopic to thousands of acres large. Inspired by the delicate threads of hyphae that allow for mushrooms to grow, Field Companions, a group exhibition currently on view at the Atlanta Contemporary, is concerned with creating a unique web of artists from across the southeast, and the conversations created when their works are brought together. 

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The seventeen pieces featured in this exhibition were collaboratively curated by members of Tiger Strikes Asteroid Greenville (TSA GVL). After the nine contributing members’ works were selected, the group suggested artists from the surrounding states whose work complemented, challenged, or conversed with a selected piece. Co-Director of TSA GVL, Rachel de Cuba explained to me in an email conversation that “every member played a role and, in some capacity, curated a portion of the exhibition.” The exhibition title Field Companions is derived from the writings of American composer and avid forager John Cage. The hidden web-like connections of fungus exist in artist networks too, forging symbiotic and collaborative relationships to sustain community. Natural pairings emerge from the installation – unearthing this underground arts ecosystem. 

​​Displayed together between the large windows of the Contemporary’s lobby hang Tennessee native David Onri Anderson’s painting Untitled (Sun Worship) and Georgian textile artist Eliza Bentz’s The Way BackBoth artists use natural pigments extracted from local fauna to color their work, adding complex layers to their otherwise minimal designs. Catching my eye first is the uniquely rich background of Anderson’s cosmic painting, stained with a homemade walnut ink. Bentz’s patchwork collage of subtle ochres and browns, is comparably softer than the dark ink in Andersons, yet it echoes the same reverent relationship with the land. 

Nearby, with similar regard to the changing landscape, South Carolina artists Claudia O’Steen and Kelsey Sheaffer both consider tidal patterns in multi-sensory ways – Sheaffer through her nearly two-and-a-half-minute long analog score, and O’Steen in her investigative multimedia installation Leveling Network. O’Steen uses the tide gauge to collect sea-level data as a meditation of her relationship to the Kronstadt landscape. As if rising with that tide matthew anthony batty’s severed decoy mallards float above the other work. No new kind of ducks is a clever addition to the conversation of artist networks happening in exhibition. 

a white gallery wall with bisected wooden bait ducks near the ceiling
Installation view, Field Companions. Photography by Mike Jensen.

The haphazard growth of mycelia can be found literally in the glass beading of Lindsay Smith Gustave, the potential energy of Emmanuelle Chammah’s wearable textile sculpture, and the crowded colorful pyramids bursting out of Susan Klein’s After Gift. April Dauscha’s four charcoal rubbings that make up her piece Perpetual Care stand out in subtlety and dolefulness. The impressions of these plaques, typically found marking a regularly maintained burial site, are expressive relics of grief and deviations from the genealogical technique of gravestone rubbings. Similar ritualistic practices are seen in Brooks Harris Stevens’ Mending Gold: Careful Attention. The three golden oval frames each house a small swatch of fabric taken from larger pieces of well-worn clothing. Each segment is repaired with golden embroidery – reminiscent of the Japanese tradition of “kintsugi,” the mending of broken pottery with gold lacquer. The artworks acknowledge the maintenance and lifespan of objects with personal histories through meditative actions. 

Field Companions organically interweaves works of varying materials – responding to concerns of legacy, relationships, and the natural landscape in flux – that elevate each other when brought together. Much like foraging for mushrooms, the intimate scale of the exhibition requires you to slow down and take your time investigating each piece, scavenging through them all to dig up their connected roots. Happy hunting. 

Presented by Tiger Strikes Asteroid Greenville, Field Companions is on view at the Atlanta Contemporary through May 15, 2022. 

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