Last Saturday Makeout Reef transformed into an art gallery for Presence, the first DIY collaboration between the venue and local art collective Hurricane Hunnies. Hurricane Hunnies was established by Madeleine Payne and Zoe Grimm last spring, and they released Buzz Volume I, their first zine featuring works and interviews with local artists, at the Charleston Zine Fest last June. The collective is still gaining steam, and according to Payne they are committed to going forward as an art collective “that aims to promote and provide a positive creative community for all. This includes an emphasis on women and gender nonconforming individuals, who are sometimes overlooked in the creative world.”
The art show constituted “DIY” in the most literal way possible, with yellow sticky notes slapped onto the walls next to works in lieu of pristine title cards. As Makeout Reef is a popular venue known for its house shows (of the noisy surf rock type), the curators strategically placed signs reminding viewers to “Respect the Art :).” Most works were accompanied by artist’s statements, which helped to make this an exhibition true to the voices and visions of the individual artists involved. Arranged salon style with plenty of living room seating and wine served in red solo cups on the back porch, the show exuded simplicity and a lack of pretension.
With works by young Charleston-based artists – many of them College of Charleston students – Presence was community conscious and saturated by a sense of place. A set of drawings and a collage by Alex Mielcarek paid a loving homage to Charleston’s coffee culture, with contour drawings of baristas from Black Tap and Kudu and even a cup sleeve from Sassyass incorporated as a collage element. In her artist statement Mielcarek conveyed a sense of admiration for her subjects, who, in their dedication to their craft, “represent presence in the fullest form” and inspire her to be present in her own artistic process.
Left to right: Works by Chloe Hogan, Clare Gaffney, and Taylor Moody
The salon style made a few works sneak up on you, like the gory and confrontational sculpture by Clare Gaffney, which consisted of a plume of ceramic teeth dripping with blood. This sculpture didn’t stop at the base, but rather incorporated the base into the ceramic mass’s frenetic energy with a confessional poem scrawled across the surface. Elsewhere in the living room-turned-gallery, prints by Julia Chea demonstrated a meticulous and varied approach to linocut and etching while Taylor Moody’s print and beaded watercolor drawing epitomized her characteristic humorous explorations of the body.
Sculpture by Clare Gaffney.
The two works displayed outside of the main living room area were the two most unorthodox and perhaps most directly forced the theme of the show: presence. On the back porch one could escape inside Sage Graham’s “Contemplation Egg,” which Graham noted was “good for parties when you just want to get away from the crowd.” The egg – which was immersive in the truest sense of the word – consisted of a metal frame covered in paper, just large enough for a human to crawl inside and comfortably, presently, “contemplate.” At past art show appearances Graham torched the “Contemplation Egg” after the show, leaving nothing but the bare metal frame – a blank slate. The other immersive work at the periphery of the main exhibition space was a durational sound installation by Phillip Greene. Red light and incense colored and clouded the upstairs landing where Greene mixed a drone piece in real time. Church bells gradually morphed into a droning sonic current of something heavy and unrecognizable. Sitting on the floor between two speakers the sound seemed to emanate from inside my head. Some people were bored, some people closed their eyes and meditated, others said they were going to have a panic attack and promptly returned downstairs to the paintings and sculptures.
Presence was curated by Michael Collier, Madeleine Payne, Zoe Grimm and Taylor Moody. “The theme of the show was a little tricky to think of because we wanted something that was broad enough that it applied to everyone, but not too broad,” said Payne. Given their parameters, the curators successfully rallied works in a variety of mediums, each of which took the notion of presence in a drastically different direction.
At the end of the day Presence was an effort among friends to create and curate the art they wanted to see represented in Charleston. I’d like to think that this exhibition is indicative of a sea change in Charleston’s art community – a demonstration of the potential for young artists and curators to carve out their own unique space, all with an open mind and some sticky notes.