Cornucopia / Urn, Spillway Collective brings together artists Nora Chellew and Suldano Abdiruhman
"Cornucopia / Urn" is a show at Spillway Gallery that features work by Nora Chellew and Suldano Abdiruhman. Samuel writes about the interplay between these two artists and how they create a dream-like space that evokes the fragmentation of memory and the nostalgic feelings we have towards the past. He also reached out to the show’s Curator, Babs Weiss, to learn more about the thought-process behind the exhibition’s conception. The show closes on February 9th, so make your way on over!

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There is a playful dichotomy in Spillway Collective’s latest show, which its title, ‘Cornucopia / Urn,’ makes readily apparent. While the first word, cornucopia, denotes a vessel overflowing with fruit, the second word, urn, can mean, among other things, a repository for ashes. Yet both objects referred to in the title are used to embellish the space in which they rest. This distinction is the focal point for curator Babs Weiss who brings together New York based artist Nora Chellew and Philadelphia based artist Suldano Abdiruhman. Weiss, who is a local artist and also a friend of mine, explained her curatorial process to me over email:

“I found myself reflecting on my own artistic practice as a garment maker, and how clothing is a container for both the skin and the soul, which made me consider containers as a whole, and how they both hide and display their contents.”

Nora Chellew, “a t l a n t i s.” From "Cornucopia/ Urn" at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Nora Chellew, “a t l a n t i s.” From “Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.

Installed on the floor in the center of the space, Nora Chellew’s large sculpture, “a t l a n t i s” exemplifies Weiss’s interest in vessels. The piece consists of a cast of childrens’ swimming pool that has been singed away in some places and desaturated in others while still maintaining a semblance of its original form. The slow fading of the pool’s once-fluorescent blue makes the cartoonish sea creatures that decorate its surface look like fossils. This creates a certain nostalgic feeling which is reinforced by the artist’s embellishment to the object—drawings of horses that evoke cave paintings—on the pool’s surface. Chellew resurfaces this childhood relic—this vessel that once would have held a happy child splashing in the pool of water—in order to spark interest in the past. Reflecting on how vessels are used to spur memory, Weiss explains:

“This then led to an investigation of the historical side of containers, vessels, and the symbolic nature of objects designed to hold other objects. During one of the initial discussions between Nora, Suldano, and myself, spirituality was discussed, and how visual cues from one’s upbringing can play a role in how one sees and experiences a vessel.”

Suldano Abdiruhman, “i lost my way and found it back pt 1.” From "Cornucopia/ Urn" at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Suldano Abdiruhman, “i lost my way and found it back pt 1.” From “Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.

This reexamination of our upbringings translates over to Suldano Abdiruhman’s work, most notably in her fabric wall hanging, “i lost my way and found it back pt 1.” As the title suggests, the artist looks towards the past to understand the present. Childlike drawings that echo the nostalgic imagery found in “a t l a n t i s” adorn this piece, and the eclectic mix of signs and symbols suggest a cryptic message to be deciphered like ancient hieroglyphs. Unlike hieroglyphs, however, the drawings in Abdiruhman’s work feel familiar. I found myself thinking about the endless waves of doodles scrawled in my notebooks from grade school and how it feels to unearth them after so many years. I remember little stick figures fighting between the lines of my notepad, smiley faces gazing down at my math homework, strange geometrical patterns consuming the edge of an old history test. Text like “untouched by time, held together only by the sheer force of will” and “right where I left it,” located in the bottom left corner of Abdiruhman’s piece, spark my interest and guide my thoughts back to these vessels from my own past. The scattered collage elements of her pieces embody the fragmentation of memory and demonstrate how non-linear our personal narratives can be.

Suldano Abdiruhman, “right where I left it”. From "Cornucopia/ Urn" at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Suldano Abdiruhman, “right where I left it”. From “Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.

Even though some of these pieces are heavily saturated with information, the exhibition as a whole still manages to feel serene and welcoming. Works by Abdiruhman and Chellew create an intimate environment for contemplation. Miniature, clay smiley faces are hidden around the gallery and two surrealist sculptures of flowers, one by Chellew and another by Suldano, are thoughtfully placed along the walls. These pieces heighten the feeling of walking through a dreamscape where the past mingles with the present and the organic melds with the constructed.

“Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Collective, January 10th – February 9th, 2019, 1401 N American St.


More Photos

Nora Chellew, “a t l a n t i s.” From "Cornucopia/ Urn" at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Nora Chellew, “a t l a n t i s.” From “Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy Spillway Collective.
Suldano Abdiruhman, "and so? does it hold?". From "Cornucopia/ Urn" at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy of Spillway Collective.
Suldano Abdiruhman, “and so? does it hold?”. From “Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy of Spillway Collective.
Suldano Abdiruhman and Nora Chellew, "corn ( :-) ) copra". From "Cornucopia/ Urn" at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy of Spillway Collective.
Suldano Abdiruhman and Nora Chellew, “corn ( 🙂 ) copra”. From “Cornucopia/ Urn” at Spillway Gallery. Photo courtesy of Spillway Collective.
Tags

artists, Babs Weiss, Cornucopia / Urn, new york city, Nora Chellew, Nostalgia, philadelphia, Spillway Collective, Suldano Abdiruhman

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