As a part of our ongoing Concepts and Challenges series, we highlight solo exhibitions by current resident artists. Pam Rogers has been with us since 2011, and this is a special post in this series, because this is her final exhibition at Arlington Arts Center. Pam has been with AAC for six years and has reached the end of her residency with us. Although we are sad to see her go we wish her the best.
Working the Ground is a paper-based exhibit, featuring works created with graphite, plants, and fiber. Because we all encounter nature on a daily basis, landscape and botanical elements have always been a part of her work. She wanted to use natural elements in her work to define place for the viewer, in addition evoking memory and a comfort that has historically been linked to the traditional landscape narrative.
This work is centered on the exploration of the relationship between humanity and the natural world, specifically where nature is challenged, contorted, filtered and reborn by a human hand. Rogers’ perceptions of landscape begin to layer with personal relationships, events and experiences and through this.
Below, Pam gives us insight into how Working the Ground came to fruition as well as the challenges involved in putting on the exhibit.
What is the concept of this exhibition?
The ideas that shaped Working the Ground came about with my desire to show a progression of the work I had created while in residence at the Arlington Arts Center. My term is coming to an end and the space has been instrumental in my ability to create large-scale works on paper and larger sculpture pieces. I wanted a chance to pull them all together in one space.
As I started to think about the specific pieces that would highlight this underlying concept, I realized that this exhibition was equally about the materials and processes that drive my work. The plant, soil and mineral pigments and inks I have created while visiting various locations throughout the U.S. are used in all the paper pieces and ground the work in that location as well as to each other. The works are abstract and yet offer elements of intentionality.
In addition to 2-D work, I wanted to have some type of site-specific sculptural installation from locally sourced plants that would add the sense [of] an environment for the viewer. In all my work, I have been forming direct connections between my materials and location, and thus events and personal relationships. While the scale of work, the materials and process were the original concept for this exhibition, it relates back to my general feeling about the work I make as well.
I have a desire to find the wilderness that each person holds inside, the element of the non-human. By adding the elements of beauty found in nature, presented with a twisted side, I challenge the viewer to question what lurks beneath. It is at this point that the work begins to take on the persona of botanic magic realism.
As I try to weave the strings of art and agriculture, myth and magic together, I find a connection that resonates in the dark unstable ground between the consciousness and collective memory using the styles of botanical illustration, surrealism and abstraction. The images and sculpture I create are my confluence of the Age of Discovery with the present and near future.
The idea of a solo exhibition is exciting and full of anxiety at the same time. I was so ready and thrilled to have a space where I could determine what was going to be shown and yet I was concerned if I could fill an entire space in an exciting and activated way.
I wanted to create the feeling of an environment without detracting from the large scale, but detailed, works on paper that I wanted to hang in the space.
This was partially accomplished by painting two of the gallery walls a deep velvety brown that would be a foil to the negative spaces in the 2-D work. I had never planned on doing this but in retrospect it is the unifying factor in the gallery and [I] am so happy I did it. Logistics of how to hang large paper pieces came into play, as did the placement of these pieces. I wanted to offer the best view without overcrowding, which meant editing out some pieces I had originally wanted to show.
The most challenging aspect for this show was where to place the sculpture that I would create. It is 8’ long and about 2′ in diameter and I wanted to suspend it from the ceiling. I also knew I wanted to create part of it in-situ so that was also a challenge that needed to be addressed.
It was amazing to find that my worries as to how the works would relate to one another and how the paper works and sculpture would “speak to each other” was an empty worry. Things fell together and I found that being flexible and not forcing a “plan” was the best way for me to approach a solo exhibition.
At the very end of installation, I found that the wall text would be activated if I could add an additional series of smaller sculptural pieces that would relate to the large one in the center of the gallery. By not having a rigid plan, I feel that Working The Ground was much more successful than if I had kept to the original idea of what it needed to be.
About the Artist
Like Working the Ground, Pam’s work is heavily influenced by anthropology and nature. Originally from Boulder, Colorado, Pam has been fascinated with nature and how it relates to the outside world since she was a child.
Pam has a BA from Wellesley College, an MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design, and a certificate in Botanical Illustration through a program based in Kew Gardens, England. Additionally, she has studied Art History and Anthropology at the University of Colorado in Boulder.
Aside from her residency with AAC, Pam currently works as an independent illustrator on various projects for the Anthropology Department of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.