Recognizing, or perhaps fearing, that painting may become a lost language, Shea Slemmer cares about how it communicates.
She pulls the viewer in with playful pigments and fluid forms, and then holds attention with titles that provoke—for instance, a work called You Should Go Before It’s Too Late. Her clarity and craft of language are balanced by controlled composition, quick-paced strokes, textural variance, and just enough room to think.
Every April, she hosts her own one-night installation, and this year she had two: one in Savannah and one in Brooklyn, where she spends much of her time. The Savannah show, called Selective Channeling, was co-presented with Location Gallery and Austin Hill Realty and installed in Old Candler Hospital’s defunct boiler room, a mostly empty Brutalist structure currently for sale in the Historic District. In the raw space, twenty paintings hovered over graffiti-marked, peeling brick walls, while woven lanterns (on loan from Paris Market) diffused the light into a soft glow.
In this exhibition she “channeled” the creative participation of friends and acquaintances, inviting them to share the experience of painting with her. Venturing into public writing for the first time, the artist composed a poem to accompany each of the paintings, inspired by her reaction to the process of working with that individual collaborator. The texts feel daring and direct in a world of decreasing physical connection, and when Slemmer notes that “channeling has many meanings,” her process starts to feel almost revelatory. An artist must channel creativity, but this work was also about reading and responding to another person, finding a common vocabulary. (Adding another layer of energy transference, a portion of profits from the exhibition was donated to the art program at Sarah Mills Hodge Elementary School, further sparking creative communication.)
Here, as ever, art is a language. It is a way to commune with self and other, a way of working something through. Not the solution, but a solution, for now.