The Valley Visual Art Show (VVAS) is a longstanding Carbondale tradition — Friday’s opening will mark the 38th time Carbondale Arts has hosted the exhibit. The show, which runs from Jan. 12 to Feb. 16 at the Launchpad, is an open call to local artists to show their work, and this year, that call was answered faster than ever.
“It just filled up so quickly,” Gallery Manager Brian Colley said. The VVAS is truly egalitarian in its approach: any artist, regardless of technical ability or experience, is welcome to participate. But because of the growing interest, Carbondale Arts decided to cap the number of artists to 50 on a first come, first served basis. This year, those slots filled in just four hours.
“A third of the artists in this show are people who have never shown here before. It’s awesome. It’s so exciting,” Colley said, adding that one of the goals of the show is to give a platform to new or lesser-known artists in the Valley.
One of those new-to-VVAS artists is DJ Hill. A poet, freelance writer and collage artist, she has recently been revisiting Mother Goose nursery rhymes to inform her artistic themes. In the past, her collage work has stemmed from her poetry. For her VVAS piece, she created a sonnet from Mother Goose stanzas. The direction her work ultimately took surprised her.
“I thought this collage would be playful. It’s funny what your subconscious does; when it got to the stanza lines, I was thinking, ‘I don’t remember that.’ The subsequent lines kind of started getting very dark. It wasn’t something I expected,” Hill said.
The Launchpad isn’t the only place Hill’s work will be featured — three of her collages will be published next month in a special edition of The Rumpus, a publication based in New York, that will explore sexual misconduct and domestic abuse.
“I was asked if my work was political,” she recalled. “And I said, ‘what do you think it is?’ It doesn’t really matter why I created it — I want it to be about your experiences.”
While Hill doesn’t prefer to say one way or the other if she considers her work political, she is submitting a collage as potential cover art for the Chicago-based Dear Mr. President book project that will feature letters to President Trump.
Hill is particularly inspired by collage because of the process. “With poetry, you have to be very particular that you are using the exact word of what you want to convey,” she said. “[With] collage, I can sit down with images and I can kind of dance around what my subconscious wants to come to or what I want to come to, and it doesn’t have to be as concise.”
Another newcomer to the gallery is Eden Keil, who will feature part of her Whispers collection of landscape paintings. The piece is a diptych — a two-painting piece.
“There’s differences between the two,” Keil, who recently joined the Carbondale Arts board of directors, said of her VVAS piece. “They’re one piece, but they’re also two separate pieces.”
Viewers will note a pink sky that adds a bit of color in an otherwise serene mountain scene. “They’re really meant to be quiet and to make you pause. They make me pause and they ask for my attention in my execution of them,” she said, adding that her intent is to invite gallery visitors to take a break from an otherwise chaotic day-to-day existence. “Using the landscape to explore notions of calm and create spaces of reflection, that’s really what I’ve been thinking about with this work lately.”
Like Hill, Klein’s work can be found outside the Launchpad. She will be a featured artist next week at the Red Brick’s “Leaning into the Light”, at which she will have several of her smaller works. “They gave me a big wall, so there’s going to be 16 pieces,” she said of that exhibit.
Gallery members will have the opportunity to meet several participating artists at a special preview at 5:30 p.m. before Friday’s more public reception. “It’s great to put a face to the name and the painting and the work,” Colley said of Friday’s opening. “We want people to know their artists and know their art — not just go to Target or Ikea and buy a canvas thing. Make a connection with a person,” he said. “Making connection is the cool thing about this show.”
Additionally, there will be another People’s Choice Award, where attendees vote for their favorite featured artist. Last year, Staci Dickerson was the esteemed winner. This year, it will be up to Friday’s crowd.
Where: R2 Gallery at the Launchpad
When: 6 – 8 p.m., Jan. 12