Burned: Women and Fire
Opening reception Friday, February 28, from 5-7 pm.
Artwork in the exhibition may be viewed here.
Fire is one of the most potent symbols in human history. It purifies, illuminates, destroys, and transforms. “Mother Earth” has fire in its core. That magma—hot, molten rock—is an igneous rock. The name igneous comes from the word ignis, which means “fire” in Latin. This fire sporadically pushes its way through cracks in the earth’s crust and erupts from volcanoes, burning everything in its path to create a way for new life to emerge from the magma. Wildfires act in the same way, coming by surprise, expanding exponentially, and consuming fuel in its path, while simultaneously opening some types of seed pods for future growth.
The first civilizations in the Near East revered forces of nature and their enormous and only modestly predictable impact on daily life. Later, they would be personified as deities. Many ancient cultures saw fire as a supernatural force: Greeks maintained perpetual fires in front of their temples, Zoroastrians worshiped and regarded fire as pure wisdom that destroys chaos and ignorance, and Buddhist cultures practiced ritual cremation to purify the body upon its release from the physical world.
When early religions began transferring attributes of forces of nature to specific deities, many cultures equated fire rising from “Mother Earth” with archetypes of women. The Sumerian goddess Lilith had a fiery ability to control men. In Egypt, the serpent goddess Wadjet used fire like a snake spitting venom to burn her enemies. In the Philippines, Darago was the warrior goddess associated with volcanoes. Roman goddess Feronia was associated with the energy of reproduction and the fire beneath the earth’s crust. These ancient goddesses were fierce and powerful, and they used fire as their tool.
As male rulers took political, religious, and economic power through organized conflict, the diminution of women’s power was the result. Instead of depicting women as independent forces of nature, biblical authors described them pejoratively as harlots and sinners. These authors used fire to symbolize the guiding presence of God, and Abrahamic religions embraced the destructive power of fire as the wrath of God. In the Torah/Old Testament story of Eve, her bold pursuit of knowledge was as terrifying as a fiery natural disaster. When Eve was in the Garden of Eden she “saw that the tree was good for food…and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her.” “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” Adam said, as he successfully blamed the woman for his choices and actions. The male God then cursed all women for Eve’s independent decision-making and disobedience: “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow…and thy husband…he shall rule over thee.”
Those words of condemnation, and words like them in other male-dominated institutions, attempted to change societal perception of women from personification of fire, and its natural ability to create and destroy, into the scorned embodiment of sin. Just as early Roman Christians built churches on top of pagan temples and later placed the orb and cross atop obelisks they looted from ancient Egypt, governments usurped female power by forcing a narrative of male moral, intellectual, and physical superiority. These institutions took archetypically “female” fire as their own symbol, using it as their weapon to control and limit women’s minds, bodies, and potential. Examples of this include doctors in pharaonic Egypt using fire to cure “hysteria” by forcing the uterus (hystera) upwards. Caught between the English and French monarchs, Joan of Arc was burned alive in 1431 despite being credited previously for the French victory at the Siege of Orleans. In early modern England, women were burned at the stake as a legal punishment for a range of activities including coining and mariticide. In 1652 in Smithfield, Prudence Lee confessed to having “been a very lewd liver, and much given to cursing and swearing, for which the Lord being offended with her, had suffered her to be brought to that untimely end.” She admitted to being jealous of and arguing with her husband. For this, she was burned at the stake, as were thousands of other women. In the late 1850s, The Industrial Revolution produced gauzy new fabrics that when made into funnel-shaped dresses, ignited instantly upon being touched by a spark. Their flammability made them death traps for women, preventing them from safely doing ordinary things men could do, such as lighting a match, standing close to a fire, or smoking a cigarette, lest they be burned alive.
Tragically, women are still burned to death by men today. In New Zealand in 2011, a groom doused his bride with flammable liquid, set her on fire, and left her by the side of the road to die so he could obtain a higher dowry from another. In 2015 in New Guinea, four women were tortured and burned for sorcery. Acid-burning is at an all-time high, occurring from the United Kingdom to Southeast Asia. In India and Pakistan, widows are sometimes burned with their deceased husbands in his funeral pyre, and the highly suspect “kitchen fire” is all too common. In contemporary honor killings, families burn their own daughters and sisters for making unapproved decisions about their own marriage. The United Nations estimates that as many as 5000 women are killed annually world-wide in honor killings. Today, this act is not illegal in such modern nations as Jordan.
It is no wonder the element of fire is ingrained in women’s collective memory. Fire represents women’s power and their torture. In women’s own hands, it is their independent creative spark; in the hands of those who want to suppress them it can destroy their very lives. Burned: Women and Fire features artists who—like the alchemical Phoenix who burns and rises from the ashes anew—integrate their collective experience with fire and burning to create their art.
Tonya Turner Carroll
We received a great review for this exhibition. In the October 7, 2018 edition of the Albuquerque Journal, Wesley Pulkka writes “For Yank the iconic show emblemizes the end of the beginning of her career that really took off in 1987 when Yank met Martin at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine. The two women formed a friendship and mutual aesthetic understanding that grew and solidified over the following 17 years until Martin’s death. Martin considered Yank to be her only true student.”
8 October 2018
September 21 – October 15, 2018
Opening Reception Friday, September 21, 5-7pm
This exhibition is extremely significant and personal. Simultaneous with an upcoming book project on Agnes Martin’s artistic and life philosophy, titled Travels with Agnes, Yank and Turner Carroll present an exhibition that reveals visual relationships between one of New Mexico’s most well-known contemporary artists—Agnes Martin, and the student she mentored for the last 17 years of her life—New Mexico sculptor Karen Yank.
Agnes and Karen met in 1987 at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, in Maine. They met at a critical time in both of their lives. Yank had just graduated from art school, beginning her artistic career. Martin was at the end of her teaching career, and chose Yank as the human receptacle for her philosophies about art and living. She regarded Karen Yank as her “true student” on a profound philosophical level. As in John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Martin had taken off in her truck, driving all over the U.S., ultimately choosing New Mexico as her home. Yank had chosen New Mexico as home, as well. Martin and Yank continued their close friend and mentor relationship after their return from Skowhegan to New Mexico, for the remainder of Agnes Martin’s life.
Martin unabashedly advised Yank on her sculptural works. She reminded Yank that “we are unfolding flowers. We need to listen to life and let life tell us what is next, relinquishing control and opening ourselves to true inspiration.” In the early years of Yank’s career as an artist, Martin rejected the circle as “too expansive” because Martin, herself, had not been drawn to it as a vehicle for her own inspiration. One of the greatest insights in both Martin’s and Yank’s artistic development was Martin’s response to Yank’s circular, banded discs, created from steel in the late 1990s. Martin amazed both Yank and herself by declaring these circular shapes “Yank’s vision and her mature voice” in her art. Martin said the circle was an obviously good choice for Yank and not for her, because Yank’s use of metal made the circular works more object oriented than illusional. The expansiveness of the circular shaped sculptures helped reverse their object-ness and enable the viewer to enter into the various planes and energetic fields of the works.
Agnes Martin also shared much of her wisdom about how an artist could best conduct daily life. She pointed out to Yank some decisions she had made in her life that she later regretted. Some of the decisions Martin regretted are surprising, like her famous choice to cut herself off from society and live an isolated, solitary life. She encouraged Yank to fully engage, only pulling back from the outside world when she was deeply inspired to create her work, and then to partake again in the social life.
Toward the end of Agnes Martin’s life, she asked Yank to keep Martin’s artistic philosophies alive by conveying her teachings to younger artists. She believed Yank could continue her admonitions to younger artists to remain true to their artistic convictions and allow themselves to mature and unfold. She believed artists have to find meditative purity in their artistic practice, to achieve the peace and solid framework for their works. Martin wanted Yank to teach young artists generously, as she had taught Yank, as she grew from young to senior artist.
Yank has let Martin’s teachings ruminate in her mind since Martin’s death over a decade ago. She seen other books emerge about Martin, and she sees that Martin’s teachings have not yet emerged. She now feels like it’s not her choice, but her duty to her friend and mentor, to preserve Martin’s philosophies of art and life so other artists can benefit from her as she did.
Over the 17 years Martin and Yank spent together, Martin taught Yank to notice the small details of life, and to strive for contentment in every moment. “In my life Agnes and I had a unique relationship. May she live on through her paintings, her teachings, and those who truly understand her genius.”
Work in the exhibition may be viewed here.
For more information and high resolution images, please visit https://www.turnercarrollgallery.com/press-area/ or firstname.lastname@example.org
October 10, 2017
West of Student Resource Center (SRC)
Lecture & Reception (Comments by Art Historians Tonya Turner Carroll and Wesley Pulkka)
October 10, 2017
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Jeanette Stromberg Library, SRC
“Growing Strength” Installation
The monumental sculpture commemorating CNM’s first 50 years is nearing completion. The expansive three-piece sculptural group stands in the xeriscape garden west of the Student Resource Center (SRC). Two benches, fabricated by CNM welding students, will face the large work from the shade of spreading elms across the walkway, and provide a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the view.
“Growing Strength” was commissioned from artist Karen Yank, known for her large-scale, steel-ornamented public sculptures and her award-winning freeway interchange designs in Albuquerque. Yank, a widely exhibited and nationally recognized sculptor, has works in cities and prestigious public collections across the United States. She works in welded steel construction, taking full advantage of the characteristics of the material and pushing the limits of the medium to construct dynamic and imaginatively engaging works. She is currently represented by Turner-Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe.
The work echoes and plays off of design motifs in the SRC, which provides a contrasting architectural backdrop. “The sculpture is abstract, combining elements of a mountain topped by a wildflower growing out of a fractured rock. The flower has a petal that drops to the ground, flowing into a bench seat,” Yank said. “The mountain is a metaphor for CNM’s strength and stability and how the college has grown, and the flower represents CNM’s fruits of labor and what the school gives back to the community.”
The delicate flower also symbolizes the qualities of growth through the learning process. The shape of the entire piece contains curves and angles that are in some places fluid and graceful and in others jarring and awkward. The complete picture is one of wholeness, intention and fulfillment.
“The sculpture is designed specifically to embody CNM’s mission and values and was created for this particular location, but it also expresses the strength and vitality of Karen’s maturing artistic expression” said Mary Bates-Ulibarri, project director and CNM Libraries branch manager. “The piece is connected to the SRC, and it is intended to be a centerpiece for the Main Campus, just as the SRC is the hub of student learning. We are fortunate to have what is sure to become an important piece in Karen’s body of work.”
“The design of my art expresses a context that can be understood in a moment but with layers that can be seen by those who pause to look deeper,” Yank explains. “My overall goal is to develop a visual language that is compelling within the given environment and community.”
The artist was selected through a very competitive, formal juried selection process, organized by Arts in Public Places, under the New Mexico Division of Cultural Affairs. She was among six finalists, selected from approximately 200 applicants from all over the United States. The selection committee was comprised of faculty, staff and student representatives, who brought different expertise and diverse cultural and professional perspectives.
“The committee chose Karen based on the strength of her past works, the quality of the proposed work, how well it matched the criteria of the committee’s prospectus, and her willingness and ability to engage the CNM community,” Bates-Ulibarri said.
Fabrication and installation of “Growing Strength” was a collaboration between the artist and Damon Chefchis, owner of CMY, Inc., a custom metal fabrication shop in Albuquerque’s South Valley. The two bench seats across the walkway were fabricated by CNM welding students under the direction of Welding Department Chair, Kay Hamby, welding instructors Ron Hackney and Trent Moore, with the assistance of Welding Technician Jasen Thomas, “From the beginning, we developed the intention of involving CNM students as much as possible, in the spirit of the Campus as a Living Lab initiative,” recalls Bates-Ulibarri. The artist and fabricator also invited CNM students to view the work in progress at CMY’s shop, offering insight into the process of designing and constructing a large-scale work, and the importance of planning, teamwork and communication required to succeed in such a venture.
The project is funded by the “One Percent for Art Program,” managed by Arts in Public Places (AIPP), a division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. The budget for “Growing Strength” was $112,750, which included the artist’s fee, materials, labor, sales taxes, licenses, permits and inspections, site preparation and site restoration. The project was attached to the construction of the SRC.
An article in the Albuquerque Journal on the artwork and Karen Yank and her artistic path is here.
In a civilization where more than 51% of the population is female, yet 96% of exhibition space is given to men, it’s time for a change. In honor of National Women’s History Month and in celebration of uniquely brilliant female perspective, Turner Carroll features important women artists all month. Artists include an international roster including Nina Tichava, Raphaelle Goethals, Hung Liu, Squeak Carnwath, Karen Yank, Jamie Brunson, Mavis McClure, Jenny Abell, Suzanne Sbarge, Holly Roberts, and Brenda Zappitell.
Opening Reception Friday, March 10, 2017 from 5 to 7pm
[n.b. that this event takes place in Santa Fe]
Agnes Martin once told Karen Yank that the “circle is too expansive” as an art form. Karen later said it was perfect shape for her, because she could control it; because she understood its implications. In the same way Drew Tal uses the gaze on the circle of the face and the eyes to make a comparison of universal features.
Opening Reception Friday, July 22, 2016 from 5 to 7pm
[n.b. that this event takes place in Santa Fe]
Circumspection implies considering your actions carefully before moving forward. Such is the case with both American artist Karen Yank, and Israeli artist, Drew Tal. Yank was awarded a prestigious art award to study at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in New York, in 1987. Her teacher was the celebrated–if reclusive–New Mexico minimalist artist, Agnes Martin. Yank relocated with her family to New Mexico, where she still lives today. Her friendship with Agnes Martin would continue for two decades, until Martin’s death in 2004.
Agnes Martin often told Yank she was her only “real” student. She passed on her opinions about artistic process and philosophy to Yank. While Martin is well known for her grid drawings and line paintings, Yank sought a different shape. Martin’s horizontal line was reminiscent of the distant New Mexican horizon line, uninterrupted by natural form. Yank, however, saw the circle as the most perfect shape for her sculpture. From earliest civilization, the circle has represented the life-giving force of the sun; eternity; fertility, divinity. Yank created a large body of work using the circle, often with referencing Martin in her use of the line within her circles, as is evident in her piece called “Thrice” as well as in her “XO” series.
For Drew Tal, his environment produced circumspection, as he states, “Growing up in Israel in the ’60’s, was a blessing for me. At that time in history the young state was a true melting pot for millions of immigrants from all around the globe. Surrounded with such a colorful collage of ethnicities, languages, nationalities, cultures and religions made me realize from an early age that the world beyond me was a rich and complex place. This revelation opened my eyes to the exotic, and made me extremely curious about people and their religions, customs, costumes and histories.”
While Israel has experienced much political strife during Tal’s lifetime, he regards each human being as equally sacred, regardless of ethnicity or religion.
Located at the Fashion Industry Gallery, adjacent to the Dallas Museum of Art in the revitalized downtown arts district. Featuring new works by gallery artists Fausto Fernandez, Hung Liu, Squeak Carnwath, Drew Tal, Jamie Brunson, Rusty Scruby, Edward Lentsch, Wanxin Zhang, Suzanne Sbarge, Karen Yank, Scott Greene, Holly Roberts, and more! Fair hours are Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16 respectively, from 11am to 7pm, and Sunday, April 17 from 12pm to 6pm, with an opening preview gala Thursday, April 14.
A link to the Dallas Art Fair is here.
Artist Karen Yank and Damon Chefchis, fabricator and owner of CMY, Inc, giving a public presentation this morning on the large scale metal sculpture that they’re making for CNM. It was a great turnout with lots of CNM art students in attendance!