Melissa Joseph (MFA '18) and Chelsea Nader (MFA '18) consider what is valued, forgotten, cherished and taken for granted in Held Dear, an exhibition of drawings, prints, and interactive sculptures.
Using collected paving stones from Berlin, Germany, Joseph engages with materials that are discounted, tread upon, and forgotten as they faithfully provide infrastructure for the city. By encasing each stone in fabric, she renders them as highly-visible, singular artifacts. Her tender coverings in sober grays, blacks, and pinks warmly hug the shape of each found form.
Joseph likens the stones to the work and societal positioning of marginalized groups; she views her careful wrapping of the stones as acts of empathy and regard. In western society, there is no democratic allocation of space; thus, some are relegated to the smallest, least visible corners. In contrast, viewers in this exhibition are invited to hold and arrange the sculptures in the gallery space. The stones can be elevated and centralized through stacking and arranging. By holding and manipulating the stones, viewers can feel both the weight and strength possessed by each object.
Nader’s handcrafted sculptures invite a slower consideration of everyday, utilitarian objects used for personal upkeep and well-being. Her intaglio prints on linen paired with porcelain and aluminum sculptures appear as drawers, shallow cabinets and shelves. Revealing what is normally concealed, each opened compartment contains objects such as, pill bottles, cigarettes and the discreet packaging of birth control. Each object constructed and sewn with tiny, precious detail.
Nader's practice concerns itself with the dynamics of memory, what's seared in and what's discarded. She says, “I’m interested in what’s held in the hidden pockets of a handbag and what is discussed during an intimate conversation between close friends... These objects seem to capture unspoken habits and untold patterns that reflect the personal history of the keeper.”
So whether it be personal objects held in secrecy or social commentary on marginalized groups, Joseph and Nader’s works are an invitation to slow down, reconsider and reflect on what is taken for granted and what is held dear.
Held Dear runs November 27, 2018, through March 3, 2019, in the PAFA Alumni Gallery.