Conversation with Sonya Pfeiffer

Sonya Pfeiffer is owner and director of Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte, NC.

From the gallery:

Jessica Singerman Artist Talk

Join us in the studio with Jessica Singerman as she takes viewers behind the thought process and intention in her new series, Hold Us in the Light.

View the works we’re talking about and shop the exhibition here.

 

Solo exhibit at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art

Jessica Singerman - hold us in the light

On November 6th 2020, my newest solo show “Hold us in the light” opens at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte, NC. Read on to find out about the work in this exhibition.

There will be free timed entry for this opening. Reserve your time slot here.
Note, my exhibit coincides with the “Home” exhibit, so the reservation link will take you to that show’s reservation page.  

From Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art:

Join us for an exhibition of intimate, responsive work by Jessica Singerman. In a significant departure from her work that celebrates nature, color and light in the landscape and the passing of time, Singerman embraces personal questions around her work and how it relates to the pressing societal issues of today.

Artist Statement:

At the end of spring 2020 when there was a swelling of anger and sadness amidst protests in the US, I wondered what – as an artist – I should be doing in response to what was happening around me. In times of turmoil, I have often questioned the validity of my work, and with practice I’ve learned that it is in those challenging times that the work of an artist becomes especially important, both for the artist and for the audience. However as a white artist, I was unsure of what was appropriate for the direction of my work. It seemed disingenuous to make politically charged paintings when my current body of work dealt with an entirely different subject matter. How could I make work that was culturally relevant yet stayed true to the artistic concerns I’ve pursued for years?

The morning of June 1st I made drawings of a table and chairs in our screened-in porch, a nod to some Richard Diebenkorn paintings of a single chair in an interior. Later that day in the studio, I decided to make a painting using one of those drawings as a reference. This painting was quiet and contemplative. I made another painting and another, all evocative of human presence, and each one a play of color and geometry and composition. In these paintings, through the careful arrangement of shapes and color, I envision creating space for conversations – hopefully the kind of exchanges that bring real profound understanding. Is this too much to want for my work? Maybe, but making art is in itself a hopeful act, and so it helps me feel optimistic.

Get a preview of the work in this studio visit.

The drawings behind the paintings

For the paintings in my exhibit at SECCA, “I must love you very much” I did a bit more planning than I normally do. To be honest, I don’t typically plan my paintings, but for these paintings I did have a specific feeling that I wanted. I liked the idea of making a group of paintings big enough to surround viewers such as Monet’s “Water-Lilies.” Some of his water lily paintings were mural sized works that filled specially made rooms at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.
I’ve been obsessed with Pilot Mountain for a couple of years, and have made a lot of paintings inspired by the place, but they were smaller works. For this project, I wanted to make paintings so big that a person looking at them would have the feeling of being transported to Pilot Mountain. While I’m not interested in creating a photo-realistic image of the place, I am interested in evoking the myriad sensations we feel when we are there.
To determine the size of the paintings, I measured the space I had available for my exhibit at the museum. I planned to make the paintings as large as I could make them while still leaving a bit of white space – or breathing room – around each one. I made four paintings, one for each wall.
After determining their size and taking reference photos on some hikes, I made preliminary watercolor drawings to loosely plan out the composition for each of the four paintings. I used a photo as the first point of reference, then reinterpreted the image by looking for the essential shapes that I would use in my paintings. As I worked on the large paintings, I referred to these drawings as a sort of map to give structure to my paintings. These are those drawings:
 

Want to see how I made these paintings? Check out this time-lapse video I made documenting the process.

Making some paintings

I recently finished a group of four paintings for my exhibition at Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), and during the time I made the last two of the paintings, I shot a photo every ten seconds to document the process. Below is the time-lapse video of the entire process over the course of six weeks. From start to finish, you’ll see how I put together “Of Stones and Earth and Air” (on the left) and “Unhearable Sounds” (on the right). See these paintings and the others at “I must love you very much,” my solo exhibit at SECCA, in Winston-Salem, NC September 17 – October 13. The opening reception takes place on Thursday September 19, from 6:00-8:00 PM, with an artist talk at 7:00 PM. Artwork is available for purchase. Contact me by phone (336) 283-0185 or email if you’d like to acquire these paintings for your collection.

Read about these paintings and the exhibit HERE.

See a video documenting the process of stretching one of these massive canvases HERE.

 

The finished paintings:

 

“I must love you very much” opening at SECCA September 2019

It’s my pleasure to announce that my first solo museum show opens at SECCA in Winston-Salem next month. Read on for the press release with all the juicy details…

Jessica Singerman, “Unhearable Sounds,” 2019, oil on canvas, 60 x 72 inches

 

(August 20, 2019, Winston-Salem, NC) Award-winning painter Jessica Singerman announces her exhibit of paintings entitled I MUST LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, opening at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) on September 17 and continuing through October 13. The opening reception takes place on Thursday September 19, from 6:00-8:00 PM, with an artist talk at 7:00 PM. Artwork will be available for purchase.

In Singerman’s monumental paintings, layered shapes meet muscular paint handling and a bold use of color to evoke a vast landscape and memories of time spent in the outdoors.

Says Singerman of these paintings, “There’s a line from a Mary Oliver poem that goes “If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.” Her writing cuts to the essential about what matters and what I hope to share in my work. It feels especially poignant these days – our world feels crazy and I’m afraid to lose the lands I love so much. One of my favorite such places is Pilot Mountain State Park. It inspires my work with its beauty as it overlooks the landscape surrounding it. This group of paintings came from time I spent hiking there with my family – views from the trail-side and of a pastoral landscape – not wild, but full of a vast energy nonetheless.

Mary Oliver’s writing encapsulates something essential about the human condition and about our experience in nature. If my paintings could speak, I like to think Mary’s poetry is how they would speak. Or rather, I hope that my paintings get close to the kind of transcendence of her poetry. Marks and color that transcend being and take the viewer to another place – a memory perhaps – and spur them to reflect on what it means to be human and on our relationship to nature. In any case, “if you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.”

Arts writer Michael Solender wrote in the Charlotte Observer, “Singerman’s approach to her work and her outlook on life brings a broad perspective as a product of a bicultural upbringing. Her mother is French and her father is American.(…) Her work offers explosions of color, form and light conjuring imagery of motion and depth.”

About the artist: A resident of North Carolina since 1980, Jessica Singerman lived alternatively in France and the United States during her early life. Singerman earned her BA with Highest Honors in 2002 from the College of William & Mary, Virginia, and her Masters of Fine Arts in 2004 from the University of Delaware while on a fellowship. Her watercolors are the subject of a book published in 2017, Little Watercolor Squares, and her award-winning paintings and drawings are exhibited and collected internationally. Singerman lives and works in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. For more information visit www.jessicasingerman.com.

SOUTHEASTERN CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART, including I MUST LOVE YOU VERY MUCH, by Jessica Singerman, September 17 – October 13. Opening reception Thursday September 19, 6:00-8:00 PM, and artist talk at 7:00 PM.
750 Marguerite Dr, Winston-Salem, NC 27106, www.secca.org, 336.725.1904

For more information contact:
Jessica Singerman, (336) 283-0185
[email protected]

The Story Behind Sky Project

Like a lot of artists, I use photography to document my work and to share my process with the world. I sometimes take photos as reference material for my work. And sometimes the photos make the work. In one of my newest works, Sky Project, I crowdsourced photos of the sky via Instagram to make a video projection. People from all over the world shared photos.

The project is a reaction to the outdoor experience as filtered through our phones. We take photos of everywhere we go and everything we do and share them on social platforms such as Instagram. Many people’s experience of the outdoors is entirely based on what is Instagrammable. So how do we continue to have unmediated experiences in nature with the constant distraction of telephones in our lives? Can we still do that?

While technology like our phones and social media connect us, they also sometimes broaden the divisions between us. When we go outside with friends and family, we can feel genuinely deep connections both with each other and the outdoors. Through Sky Project, I encouraged people to look up from their phones, toward the sky that we share with everyone else – to get outside and to look around. Ultimately, I want my work to spur viewers to get outside and experience nature for themselves. I hope that by doing this, we can forge more profound connections with each other and develop a deep appreciation of nature together.

See more of the project along with Paper Mountain HERE. You can see both projects at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in the exhibit “Beyond the Mountain” until April 26th.

Get a video tour of the exhibit on my blog HERE.

Going outside will save us

 

On March 16th, a day after the opening of “Beyond the Mountain” at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, I sat down for a talk about the inspiration behind my work. I explain my painting process, where the ideas for Paper Mountain and Sky Project came from, and why art and going outside will save us. And if you scroll down a little farther, I added a little treat: a private tour of my work in the exhibit. Enjoy!

You can experience the exhibit for yourself until April 25th at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte, NC.  To see more of Paper Mountain and Sky Project, visit the project page HERE.

Installing Paper Mountain

I finished installing Paper Mountain at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art last week. After one year of planning, three months of folding paper cranes, and one week of installation with a team, it feels good to see the project come to life and to share it with others.

Below are two time lapse videos showing the installation process from Saturday night through Wednesday. I used GoPros to shoot one photo per minute for the duration of the installation. The first video was shot from the ground floor, and the second was shot from the mezzanine for a bird’s eye view. These are the steps we followed to install Paper Mountain:

  • Assemble the scaffold (not for the faint of heart)
  • Place tape on the floor to mark the footprint of the mountain
  • Attach the wire fence to the ceiling trusses
  • Tie fishing line to the wire
  • Open each crane (fold wings down)
  • Pierce the top of a crane with a needle
  • Run fishing line through a crane
  • Place crane at correct height
  • Squeeze split shot (small lead weight) under the bird to hold it in place
  • Repeat for each bird
  • Inspect and make adjustments
  • Trim fishing line underneath birds
  • Sweep underneath the piece
  • Light the piece
  • Disassemble the scaffold (terrifying)

 

Beyond the Mountain is up at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art until April 26, 2019. If you haven’t already, go see it! You’ll experience Paper Mountain, Sky Project, and paintings by me and Martha Armstrong.

In the Press: ‘Beyond the Mountain’ Exhibit Brings Origami to the Next Level

A digital rendering of Jessica Singerman’s “Paper Mountain” installation.

Thank you Queen City Nerve and writer Emily Pietras for the excellent write-up on the exhibit “Beyond the Mountain” opening March 15th at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte, NC. Read on for the full story:

For three months, artist Jessica Singerman set aside an hour or more nearly every day to hand-fold paper cranes. The end result of that meticulous exercise is “Paper Mountain,” a 13-foot-high, 30-foot-long installation that comprises more than 1,000 of these intricate figures.

It’s part of a new body of work that Singerman will debut in her upcoming exhibit, Beyond the Mountain, which runs through April 26 at the Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art following an opening reception on March 15. Also featuring pieces by abstract landscape painter Martha Armstrong, the show seeks to celebrate the human connection to nature and respond to the changing ways people interact with the outdoor environment.

Singerman, who majored in studio art at The College of William & Mary and received her MFA in painting from the University of Delaware, began incorporating nature into her artwork during a creative rut. As an undergrad, she focused on politically driven figurative work from a feminist perspective, but by graduate school, she had hit a roadblock.

“I didn’t feel like I had a lot to offer with the figure,” says Singerman, who lives in Winston-Salem. “And so I think as a result of that, I started exploring other avenues in my work.”

Like Armstrong, Singerman ultimately found her passion in landscape-based abstraction. After graduate school, she took a job as a cycling guide, leading tours across Europe, Central America and Australia. That adventurous outdoor lifestyle provided experiences that continue to influence and shape her work today.

“I started living on the road a lot, and then when I would get home, I had all these images in my head of all these places I’d been, outdoor places,” Singerman says. “Especially now looking back, I understand that a lot of that was fodder for my imagination. All these outdoor landscapes … you have all these memories of places you go, and all of that goes into my work as an artist. I think about all of these different spaces that I’ve been to.”

“Paper Mountain” marks a departure from painting for Singerman, who says the feeling she wanted to evoke with the project couldn’t be captured on canvas.

“I wanted to create something that was more immersive for viewers in a way that when we go outside, if we’re by a mountain or a big tree, we sense a presence that is bigger than us, and it’s awe-inspiring,” Singerman says. “And so I wanted to make something that would try to do that.”

For Singerman, the main challenge was finding the right kind of paper.

“Because I wanted to make something big, I couldn’t use regular origami paper,” she says. “And the big paper, the tough thing was to find something that wasn’t too thick, because then it doesn’t fold well. And it couldn’t be too flimsy; otherwise, it would just fall over. It had to have some kind of structure.”

More-igami.

Through trial and error, Singerman landed on drawing paper, and from November 14, 2018, through February 12, 2019, she dedicated a portion of each day — aside from three days to attend a painting workshop — to folding the 1,200 paper cranes.

And “Paper Mountain” isn’t the only part of Beyond the Mountain that has moved Singerman out of her artistic comfort zone.

A complementary installation called “Sky Project” includes 75 images of the sky, crowdsourced through Instagram, that will be projected onto the gallery’s walls. The project is a response to the modern-day desire to document much of our lives on social media and how that has altered the way we experience nature.

“I think of people going to places outside to then post about it, which is really interesting,” Singerman says. “In a way, it’s nice that it’s driving people to national parks or to go outside and do stuff. But on the other hand, there are places that are overcrowded now, because they weren’t meant to have so many people visiting them. So there’s a double-edged sword that’s happening with social media and the outdoors. The question I wanted to ask with this project is, can we have pure experiences outside? Can we go outside and be there and not have to filter everything with our phones?”

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