Chaos Breeds Creativity

Chaos Breeds Creativity

Fenix Fayetteville artists address the pandemic


“Stay at home,” reads an image in Laurie Foster’s “Crosses and Losses 2020.” “The world is temporarily closed.”

Artist Dale Heath says “the choice of subject (the Statue of Liberty) in the three pieces I have in the show was definitely influenced by life now.”
(Courtesy Image)

Foster took images of the pandemic that she found particularly moving — “vast empty New York streets, stacks of coffins and graveyards, health workers kitted out in PPE and older Americans trying to communicate between glass windows” — and turned them into a paper montage based on a vintage quilt pattern.

“These images I found very disturbing as they are so foreign to our American experience,” Foster says. “For many artists, the creations of this period will express a distillation of the actuality of the pandemic, the social unrest and the political chaos that are the American reality in 2020.”

Foster is one of the curators of “Chaos, Confusion, Creativity,” a collection of artworks now on view at Fenix Fayetteville. Most of the gallery’s members are included.

“Some of the pieces that are particularly expressive of the times are David Bachman’s beautiful, intensely dark series of mixed media drawings; Dale Heath’s acrylic paintings of Lady Liberty; and Helen Kwiatkowski’s ‘100 Millies’ series, portraying images of her dog Millie, who has been her sole companion during the shutdown,” Foster says. “Annie Edmondson also has created a strong abstract metal sculpture that I find very appealing.

“The pandemic has had a profound effect on our group,” she adds. “Some artists have reacted by delving deep into their personal lives and emotions while others have lashed out at the politics that have taken precedence over science. We are living through the most uncertain times that the majority of us have experienced.”

Fenix Gallery, located on the Fayetteville square, had just had a successful opening reception for an exhibit titled “Sewn In” on March 5. Then news of the pandemic started capturing page 1 headlines.

“It was a shock to have to close the gallery down in March,” Foster remembers. “As a member of the Fenix leadership group, I kept watching the news media predicting horrible scenarios about covid-19. When the governor finally shut down the schools, we all decided it was time to close the gallery in hopes that we could wait out the virus, and it would pass over Fayetteville.

“Chaos, Confusion, Creativity” also includes this untitled work by Davis Bachman. The exhibit remains open through October at Fenix Fayetteville.
(Courtesy Image)

“During the lockdown, the Fenix members continued to meet via Zoom and tried to rearrange the exhibit schedule, thinking this would be a short-lived shutdown,” she continues. “As it grew longer and longer and more uncertain, we had to cancel all visiting artists and special exhibits, not knowing when we could open or whether we could hold events. We then decided to focus on our local membership and the works we were creating as we were all sheltering at home.”

Artist Dale Heath was back East when the pandemic struck.

“I cut short my visit in New York City as the virus fired up there,” he relates. “I returned to Fayetteville for a two-week self-quarantine, only to discover within a few days that Arkansas was experiencing a relatively similar covid-19 crisis.”

Heath says he has “generally sought a somewhat reclusive studio life that has perhaps changed somewhat in its constancy, but not in a way that has changed my work or work habits.” But the choice of subject for the three pieces on show as part of “Chaos, Confusion, Creativity” was “definitely influenced by life now, i.e. immense social and economic distress, fragile world health and an unpredictable political landscape,” he says. “The iconic Lady Liberty has long stood for welcome to the oppressed — the poor, tired, huddled masses longing for freedom — and the promise of that freedom. She lights the way to vast uncertainties these days.

“It seems that art itself has always lifted the ubiquitous layers of hiddenness and secrecy common to us human beings,” Heath muses. “It cannot do otherwise. Some makers want to do that intentionally. I do not. I guess I pass on a message that comes from the part of me that makes the painting.

“For me, the painting is finished when I can walk away from it,” he adds. “From that moment on, the fate of the work is in the viewer’s hands. What the viewer sees or doesn’t see isn’t any of my business.”

Foster says this exhibit will be unique in that it will be “rather fluid. As we add new members to the Fenix group, new works will be rotated into the exhibit as others are removed. It will be worth a second and perhaps third visit throughout the exhibit.” As for her own art, “I think that the uncertainty will be an underlying theme in my work for some time to come.”

“I don’t think the pandemic has changed my perception of the world. Pandemics are a natural phenomenon. What has had a profound effect on my world view is the American reaction to the crisis. I find the denial of science and the politicalization of our health and well-being outrageous and unfathomable in this 21st century. It feels as though America has lost its way, and I’m not sure we can get back to a place that feels like home.”

“Crosses and Losses 2020” is a vintage quilt pattern composed of stitched together colored paper pieces. Artist Laurie Foster says it includes “images of the pandemic that I found particularly moving: vast empty New York streets, stacks of coffins and graveyards, health workers kitted out in PPE, and older Americans trying to communicate between glass windows.”
(Courtesy Image)


‘Chaos, Confusion, Creativity’

WHEN — Until Oct. 31; gallery hours are 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday & Friday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday

WHERE — Fenix Fayetteville, 16 W. Center St. in Fayetteville

COST — Free

INFO — Email or 651-1852

Categories: Galleries