Invisible, the first exhibition of the new year at ArtYard, opened Jan. 15. Curated by Jill Kearney, Invisible explores what the author Svetlana Alexievich calls “the missing history – the invisible imprint of our stay on Earth and in time.” Over two sessions, more than 150 people experienced the exhibition that evening, which features the work of 12 artists, some of whom also attended. The following are Kearney’s opening remarks.
Hello and welcome. Thank you for braving the freezing temperature, thank you for being vaccinated and wearing your masks, and thank you for just surviving the fear and uncertainty of the last two years, and gathering together in whatever way we can.
My favorite word in the English language is Anosognosia, or not knowing what you do not know.
This show is the visual equivalent of not seeing what you do not see.
The idea germinated when I stumbled on the videos of Kawita Vatanajyankur at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo, NY. Kawita’s work makes visible the invisible labor of women.
But Invisibility is not the province of women alone. If you have ever spent decades raising children and performing thousands of invisible acts of devotion, or cared for your autistic child or your dying mother, or if you have felt something for which there was no name, or if you have suffered a loss or experienced something that you cannot say out loud, or if you are a realm of nature that is being slowly extinguished, or a person who occupies a wheelchair and cannot enter a restaurant or the home of a friend, or if you have an identity that is not acknowledged, or is rejected as though it does not even exist, you have experienced invisibility, and you might feel what I felt when I saw this work. Of course, it was not expressly about me.
But I felt that I had been seen, somehow, in fact, by a total stranger. Kawita captured and distilled in these images the beauty, humor, inequity, fragility, ugliness, and tenderness of this life. Art is an antidote to the loneliness of human existence. To be seen is everything.
Kawita’s work started me thinking about invisibility. How, when you enter any building, a cathedral perhaps, or a building like this one, you do not see the men with their hands freezing standing on ladders. When we stand inside any building, they are invisible shadows.
Invisibility extends to every corner of human existence, from the histories that are never taught in school, to the palpable absence of a loved one who died suddenly and for no good reason, to the biology of life itself.
I want to thank so many people for helping to make this happen. First of course, the artists, six of whom are able to be here tonight.
Sandra Ramos has been a huge help, installing her arresting Hand of History installation with the help of Frenchtown Elementary students, and spending several hours with pliers and a magnifying glass assisting with the construction of Rome, the giant multi-armed dress by Natalija Vujošević.
sTo Len is here, and I urge you to look at his wonderful book, Invisible Frenchtown, which he wrote with much appreciated assistance from our local historian, Rick Epstein.
Vasiliki Katsorou is here, the author of the Haikus in the gumball machines, and I hope you brought quarters so you can watch a poem disappear.
Kaitlin Pomerantz (Trodden), Monica Banks (VSG), and Gabrielle Senza are also here. You are invited to contribute stories of your own invisibility in Gabrielle’s Invisibility Lab. Kawita could not leave Singapore due to Covid restrictions but stay tuned as we hope she can visit at a later date.
Lastly, this was not an easy install, and I am deeply grateful for the work of Eric Fiorito, Ulla Warchol, Sean Nejman, Dawn Ferguson, Meghan Van Dyk, Kate Lambdin, Mike Gilheany, Elsa Mora, Isabel Augusto, Mary Staniewicz, and Kandy Ferree.
The truth is that the idea is the easiest part of any project. I have ideas banging around in my head at all times, but ideas are nothing without the capacity to realize them. A special thank you to my husband, Stephen, for giving us all this capacity, and to Kandy who is the invisible force behind the realization of this building, and an extra thank you to Ulla and Eric, who have been up on ladders and scissor lifts and in every imaginable contortion to make this exhibit happen. We made this show together, and they are treasures to me personally and professionally.
I hope you enjoy this exhibition, and please come back again.
Jill Kearney, curator, is the founder and executive director of ArtYard in Frenchtown, NJ. Kearney is a producer of communal spectacles, a curator, a former journalist, and a film executive. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in English and creative writing, worked in Hollywood as a creative executive at Francis Coppola’s Zoetrope Studios, served as West Coast editor of American Film and Premiere Magazine, and later ran the Tribeca Film Center-based offices of Los Angeles film producer Art Linson. Before launching ArtYard, she produced theater, dance, and literary events in a cavernous unheated barn in Bucks County, PA, where she developed a deep appreciation for the practice of art as a collaborative enterprise.