Always In Motion

group exhibit at library explores Migration theme

Hope Greene, photos by Hope Greene

STATIONARY MOTION. Migration, the current group exhibit at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, features pieces by 28 artists. It will be on display at the library through Aug. 28.
STATIONARY MOTION. Migration, the current group exhibit at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, features pieces by 28 artists. It will be on display at the library through Aug. 28.

Migration is movement. Some migrations are cyclical and dependable transitions, some chaotic; they are disasters and they are triumphs, journeys undertaken by choice or by necessity. Every movement has consequences, and at all times every bit of this universe is in motion.

Twenty-eight artists created pieces based on the single word Migration for the summer show at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library. From now through August, the library gallery is filled with their varied insights on what migration is, has been, and might mean.

Migration is a natural cycle. Spring comes to summer comes to fall, while the flocks and herds come and go at their expected times. Jessie Pautsch, a recent UW-Eau Claire graduate, reached back to home to find the inspiration for her trace monotype “Tuscobia.” The piece grew out of her childhood experiences of living by a lake, which gave her intimate knowledge of the surrounding animals’ response to the cycle of seasons.

“This realization led to research and a greater understanding of human constructs that inhibit our natural need to move to survive ...” – Lori Chilefone on her work in Migration

“Both monarch butterflies and painted turtles are scarcer now than they were in my childhood; and yet, there are always a few who pass through as messengers of spring and fall,” Pautsch said. “My hope is that the circle of green shells and orange wings will continue, unbroken.” The scheduled farewell and welcome of the season-based travelers is a strong theme in this show.

Migration is historical change. Human migrations can be world-altering. The great migrations made by those displaced by war or poverty, or out of great hope for future generations – and the consequences of those shifts – inspired some thought-provoking pieces. “It All Began with the Collapse of the Banks, Black Friday, 1929…” is one of the last paintings made by the well-loved Steve Katrosits before he passed away in May; the subtleties of the piece are made sharper by the physical difficulties of his last weeks and his knowledge of his own imminent passing. His wife, Gail Schellinger, recalls, “He talked a lot about his father when working on that piece, how he had worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the whole experience of the time of so many lives displaced, people who just can’t stay where they were.”

Migration is departure. A girl leaves her mother to become a mother, ages of history turn unrelentingly and are gone, the arrival of one living thing brings another to extinction. For this show, Janice Roberts began working with the idea of the never-ending presence of war, but unsatisfied with her work, she stopped and went back to the beginning again. Reflecting on migration, transition, and moving, she struck a deep personal nerve.

“I found myself thinking about my father passing away in September from Alzheimer’s disease and the awful transition a person must go through to battle that terrible fate.” Her final stark charcoal drawing, “Plummeting Into the Abyss – The Ravages of Alzheimer’s,” faces down the transitions that we may have no choice in undergoing as the borders of our minds and our bodies change and then finally collapse.

Migration is uncertainty. In the end, migration in every sense and experience is incredibly complex in its effects, and poses a set of questions which can only ever be partially answered. Lori Chilefone’s collage triptych, “Freedom,” “Push, Pull and the Obstacle,” and “Untitled,” traces her journey of questioning ideas of migration. She began with butterflies, but then asked herself why she had not considered the questions of human movement.

“This realization led to research and a greater understanding of human constructs that inhibit our natural need to move to survive, and the many unanswered questions that we are faced with when this occurs,” Chilefone said. Faced with the sheer scale of the social emergency of current migrant crises around the world, Chilefone found hope in thinking through three simple questions posed in a children’s book based on a parable by Leo Tolstoy, questions that ask about the right choice of action. Many of the pieces in the show open questions on their various themes that they do not close.

This exhibition is an excellent place to take your loss, your hope, your uncertainty, your questions, and mull them over in good company. Take a seat at the collaborative “Whirled Table,” headed up by sculptor Mark Ruddy, a piece designed to make a space of welcome and unity for diverse residents of the Chippewa Valley. While you’re sitting there at the circular table with your hands on the compass or tracing the map lines, imagine yourself the center of an entire planet endlessly traveling, endlessly asking its questions about home.

Migration is on display at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library in downtown Eau Claire through Aug. 26. For more information visit www.ecpubliclibrary.info or call 715-839-5004.

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