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Grizzly Grizzly – the parallel processes of Skye Gilkerson and Sarah Steinwachs


Subtle, intricate, and intelligent – that is how to best summarize Out of Context at Grizzly Grizzly. The show consists of two artists with a similar process, but vastly different products – Skye Gilkerson and Sarah Steinwachs – and runs until September 24.

Gilkerson Horizon
Skye Gilkerson, “Horizon Study”, text collage, 14 inches x 11 inches.

As the name of the exhibition suggests, the artists share a process in which they change the context of the images they use, in this case by means of cut-out and collage work, but that is essentially where their similarities end. Baltimore-based Skye Gilkerson takes printed publications and painstakingly cuts out the punctuation. She then reassembles the punctuation marks, and sometimes the negative space of the page, into new forms devoid of their original meaning.

Gilkerson Detail
Detail from Gilkerson’s Punctuate series.

With Gilkerson’s wordless pages and seemingly pointless punctuation, there is of course the nagging curiosity of what the original sources must have contained. Were they originally from magazines? Novels? Parts of the Bible? Anything is fair game here, and the answer is ultimately met with a question mark, figuratively, and literally in some cases.

Gilkerson Unquote
Sky Gilkerson, “Unquote” (detail).

Gilkerson’s pieces are wrought with simplicity. Periods with no sentences and backwards quotation marks without words of wisdom remind us that perhaps all the talking and triviality of daily life is sometimes better left unsaid. At the end of the day, letting go of frivolous worries and embracing the simplicity and balance of our existence is all we really need. Is this reading into things? Quite possibly, but it proves that empty quotation marks have a lot more to say than meets the eye. With their simple reversal, the marks silently quote everything around them and leave only a tiny space for verbosity.

Steinwachs Blue Sharpie
Sarah Steinwachs, “An Ode to Blue Sharpie”, 12 x 12 x 4 inches, hand cut paper and blue sharpie, 2010.

Sarah Steinwachs, on the other hand, works with graph paper for her series Paper Microcosms. She removes the spaces in between the lines of the graph paper in different configurations, transforming them from two-dimensional spaces to three-dimensional webs. She then colors and layers these planes to create bright, scintillating studies of depth.

Steinwachs Detail
Sarah Steinwachs, “Combustion” (Detail), 12 x 12 x 4 inches, hand-cut paper and mixed media, 2010.

Apparent in these constructions is an architectural and geometric sensibility. Although they hang on the wall, moving around in front of these tiny relief sculptures changes the way they look significantly. Brilliant Moiré patterns emerge and slither in and out of the overlaid grids, much like the optical effect seen through two parallel window screens. They are complex and winding, and offer a wholly different feel than Gilkerson’s sparse commentary.

This show is intriguing in its ability to highlight how vastly divergent two similar processes can be. While one artist deals mostly with language and the other geometry, it also proves that individuality and impressions vary so much from one person to another that even related methods produce wildly different results.