You Do Not Have to Be Good by Cheryl Agulnick Hochberg
October 24, 2019 – January 10, 2020
Artist Talk | October 29, 12:00pm – 1:00pm | Dadian Gallery Foyer & Boardroom
Images available here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmJ1kCoF
The Season for Trumpeter Swans is awash in muted tones of russet brown and sage green. In the foreground a single bird tilts forward, white wing unfurled in mid-launch. Groups of these magnificent swans, the largest waterfowl in North America, perch in the middle distance and fly over distant mountains layered in fog.
Artist Cheryl Agulnick Hochberg’s realistic and detailed rendering in this work on paper suggests it is based on a photograph. But longer looking reveals visual cues and spatial elements in the composition that don’t quite add up; it is not an illustration of one place, but a constructed landscape. Hochberg crafts these mixed-media pieces in her studio, working from images and impressions culled during travel and artist residency programs.
In the Dadian Gallery six large-scale drawings and two color wood-cut prints fill the walls. In her particular process, the artist combines photographs into composite images which become underdrawings. She then collages paper and layers watercolor paint and found objects – in this case feathers and thread- to create atmospheric records of memory and sensory experience.
Hochberg and her assistant Emma Fries made audio recordings during an artist residency in Nebraska. Fries cut and sequenced sounds of bird calls, wind and running water to create a sound piece that plays continuously in the gallery. Similar to the visual reports from Hochberg’s travels, these soundscapes straddle the line between reality and invention. Travel, craft and the practice of paying attention combine to create the rich, detailed ecosystem of her art practice.
About the Artist
Cheryl Hochberg received her MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her BFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. From 1990-2018, she was a Professor at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, chairing the Department of Art and Art History from 2012-2017. In 2018, she retired from academia with Professor Emeritus status to work full time as an artist.
She currently works in her studio in the Manufacturers Village Studio Complex in East Orange, NJ.
Cheryl has exhibited extensively. Recent solo shows include Five Points Gallery in Torrington, CT (2019), VisArts Center in Rockville, MD (2018), the Radford University Art Museum (2017), and the Allentown Art Museum (2015). Her work has also been included in numerous group shows including Site:Brooklyn Gallery (Brooklyn), Manifest Gallery (Cincinnati), Benaco Arte (San Simione, Italy), Art Prize (Grand Rapids, MI), the Ice Box (Philadelphia), and Woman-made Gallery in Chicago.
Artist residency programs are an integral part of Cheryl’s creative practice. Over the past decade she has worked at the Guanlan Original Printmaking Base (Shenzhen, China), UCross (Clearmont, WY), Playa (Summer Lake, OR), Jentel (Banner, WY), The Studios at Key West (Key West, FL), and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Amherst, VA).
This show is a meditation on Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese. Its title is the poem’s first line.
Over the past decade, my life has required me to travel extensively, both because of working at artist residency programs and for personal reasons. By incorporating and compositing into my work the images and experiences I brought back from these trips, I create work that evokes the ways various places have spoken to me and what I have come to understand because I have spent time in them.
Oliver’s poem is a fairly short one, but there are several strong connections between it and my approach to work. She begins with the premise:
You do not have to be good, you do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles, repenting, you just have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Here, she speaks of a kind of religious practice not built so much on restraint or discipline as on learning to un-restrain oneself to love most fully. My travels are at once a necessary activity for image gathering and also a kind of religious practice by which I make myself a stranger in order to learn what I may from the places I go.
The poem goes on to say:
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountain and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.
When people travel, they bring along their own stories. Nonetheless, places have their own histories and peculiarities. My work strives to communicate the strange, specific, and important essence of the ecosystems they depict. Each work, while appearing from a distance to represent an actual scene, is, on closer view, a composite of several images, intended to embody the spirit and individual voice of each place. Indeed, as one stands nose to nose with the works, their layered, collaged and constructed elements require one to step away from first appearances and expectations and reconsider the various elements on their own merits.
Oliver ends: Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
When I go somewhere, I never know what will affect me and speak to me, but places have never disappointed me; they always speak, and the more they do, the better I learn to listen. This group of work is the product of my encounters with the history, humanity, and strangeness of the world as I have met it.