Lifestyle

Experience “Jonquil” by Leslie Bellavance at the Smith House

Wall, Iris print on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Leslie Bellavance. 2004.

Wall, Iris print on paper. Courtesy of the artist. Leslie Bellavance. 2004

The Arts Council of the Valley features Jonquil by Leslie Bellavance, highlighting photography and works on paper. The exhibition opens Friday, January 8 from 5-7p.m. with refreshments and a chance to meet the artist. Everyone is welcome to come and experience first-hand these thoughtful and clever pieces.

On display will be selections from two bodies of work, Wall, a series of digitally montaged photographs, and A Yellow Smell, a series of mixed media works on paper. Both collections were made in response to the well-known American short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gillman. Though the story is considered part of the horror genre, it is known for influencing 20th century feminist discourse. In order to reflect the confusion of the protagonist, Bellavance combines found images and recreated backdrops with different depictions of yellow wallpaper. Bellavance explains that she does this “in such a way as to imagine a space where figure and ground become confounded and patterns shift. The series also serves as an exploration of the paradoxical color yellow.” These formal photographs appear austere with the exposed limbs but also inviting with the antiquarian wallpaper designs one expects to find in a grandmother’s parlor.

The second series, A Yellow Smell, originally served as preliminary research for Wall and is now a culmination of Bellavance’s work to re-visualize the garden bower wallpaper from the short story. Bellavance reveals that the title “comes from an episode of Gilman’s story when the protagonist begins to experience the color yellow in a synesthetic way, through the sense of smell rather than sight.” By titling her work as such, the viewer is able to engage senses beyond sight in understanding and appreciating the pieces.

Leslie Bellavance is currently a professor of art and the director of the School of Art and Art History at James Madison University. She has exhibited her artwork extensively in the United States and in Europe and has received numerous grants and awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her book, analemmic, was awarded a residency and published by Nexus Press in Atlanta, Georgia. She has written and lectured extensively on contemporary art. From 1981 until 2005 she served on the faculty of the Department of Visual Art in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she also served as head of the Photography Program, and director of Graduate Studies in Art. She received a BFA from Tyler School of Art at Temple University and a MFA from the University of Chicago. She lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Since opening its doors in 2002, the Arts Council of the Valley and its Court Square Theater have emerged as a dynamic force in the cultural, economic, and educational life of our community. It produces, manages, and promotes the visual and performing arts out of its two locations: the Smith House and Court Square Theater. Art openings occur the first Friday of the month from 5-7 p.m. and are open to the public. For more information on the Arts Council visit http://www.valleyarts.org or call (540)-801-8779.

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