Brandywine Art Guide: Solo Series at Abington Art Center

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Dine by Summer Yates

Presenting artists and artworks in relation to each other is one of the many magics of galleries. Whether it is comprised of single pieces from dozens of artists or collections of a few, bringing various mediums, styles, forms, and viewpoints together in one physical location allows for interesting juxtapositions and interpretations.

At the Abington Art Center, the Winter 2024 Solo Series features four artists, Mia Fabrizio, Karen Hunter McLaughlin, Nicole Santiago, and Summer Yates, in a riot of color, texture, and intense emotion.

Caregiver by Nicole M. Santiago

“While I always remain sympathetic to the underlying abstract scaffolding that supports my compositions, narrative realism is really what drives my work,” said Nicole Santiago. “I use the mundane domestic debris of everyday life as a thin veil for the deeper universal, yet personal, themes of love, loss, and duty.”

Her evocative still lifes and scenes create stories that go far beyond the frame into shared real-life experiences.

“Many of my works describe the joys and chaos of caregiving for my school-age children as they begin their life's journey and the emotional turmoil of caring for a terminally ill father and grandparents at the end of their journeys,” said Santiago. She hopes “viewers can interact with the abstraction of the work, seeing beyond the nameable items and enjoying the simple design of the piece.”

In the other rooms of the exhibition, mixed media and sculpture take over.

Nostalgia is not what it used to be by Mia Fabrizio

“Within my work, I draw comparisons between layers within domestic architecture and layers within the identity of the individual,” said Mia Fabrizio. Her pieces include reclaimed materials such as carved drywall, broken furniture, and wallpaper, combining the familiar with evocative new forms. “I tear apart a space and tenderly piece it together to present an alternate perspective.”

The show intentionally curates pieces that both clash and harmonize, creating an interesting experience as the viewer moves between spaces. The abstract forms of McLaughlin’s botanical mixed media almost seem to spring from the color palette of Santiago’s oils, while Yates’s vivid sculptures contrast the natural tones of Fabrizio’s.

“The natural world plays a large role in my work,” said Karen Hunter McLaughlin. “I’m deeply thinking about the unknown mysteries that are constantly being unraveled in all the sciences.”

Her pieces use dyes, rust, pencil, and watercolor on unusual surfaces such as botanical-dyed paper and Rives, a mouldmade printmaking paper with a smooth, absorbent surface.

“The visual marks that create much of the work are depicted in all branches of science from microscopic neurons to the mycorrhizal labyrinth, to the macrocosmic tendrils of nebulae,” she said. “They represent the kinship connections we share with the human and non-human worlds.”

The House That Built Me II by Mia Fabrizio

Summer Yates reimagines common items such as tablecloths, hangers, ribbons, and platters combined in mixed media wall hangings and sculptures. They represent “my entwined experiences as a woman, artist, and mother,” said Yates.

There are elements of hard and soft that show the versatility of the materials and surfaces.

“In a celebratory fashion, the work reflects the complexities of ‘holding it all together’ and total surrender,” she added in her artist statement.

The dynamic interplay of technique, subject, and presentation invites contemplation of both the individual artworks and the exhibition in its entirety. “I want the work to generate more questions than answers, leading the viewer to engage in the layered narratives and symbolism embedded in each piece,” said Santiago. The many familiar objects in her oil paintings combine autobiography with commonality. “I also hope viewers can interact with the abstraction of the work, seeing beyond the nameable items and enjoying the simple design of the piece.”

Through the Mantle I by Karen Hunter McLaughlin

Utilizing difficult mediums and subjects can inspire meaningful reactions.

“It is this layered identity I want to bring to the attention of the viewer,” said Fabrizio, “... soft and hard textures: floral and metallic, rough and delicate, collaged together— none has priority over the other.” The art of this exhibition is intensely personal, and also immediate. “Standing on its own, art meets the viewer wherever they are in that moment, so my general hope is that a new connection is made and viewers at the very least, widen their definition of ‘art,’” she added.

“We are sometimes hard-pressed in our current consciousness to find the things that bind us together,” McLaughlin concluded. “We need that now more than ever.”

The Winter 2024 Solo Series is on view at the Abington Art Center from Jan. 19 through Feb. 26. An Opening Reception will be held Friday, Jan. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. Coffee Break: Artist Talks will be held Feb. 3 and 17 from 10 a.m. to noonThe Abington Art Center is located at 515 Meetinghouse Road, Jenkintown. More information can be found at AbingtonArtCenter.org.

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About Victoria Rose

Victoria Rose (she/her) is an editor, writer, avid reader, self-described geek, and fan of all things creative. Her passion for words has led to her current career as a freelance editor, and she is the owner of Flickering Words, an editing service. When not wielding a red pen (or cursor), she loves reading books of all genres, playing video, board, and word games, baking ridiculous creations to show off on the internet, or enjoying the gorgeous outdoors. She is a board member of the West Chester Film Festival and part of the Thirsty Monsters, a team of streamers from around the world who fundraise for various charities supporting LGBTQIA+ and accessibility rights. She can be found online @WordsFlickering or the Brandywine Art Guide @BrandywineArtGuide.

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