May 21 - July 24, 2011
Juliellen Byrne expresses her opinions about her views on life and current events through clay sculpture. Her exhibit, Cradle, Casket, Boat, explores her disappointments with the foibles of humankind, (particularly the seemingly endless pain of war), as well as the simple joys of just being alive. With remarkable visual skill, Byrne draws the viewer into her world with non-confrontational forms, such as children’s faces and praying hands. As a woman and a mother, she uses these subtle images to capture the attention of the viewer, encouraging us to discuss, to speak up and possibly to rally against the sadder, more unfortunate aspects of life. There is tragedy in her work, but joy and hope as well.
One morning a few years ago my son packed and loaded his things for his new destination and home near the Ohio State University campus. For breakfast that day we shared harsh words, disappointing revelations, and homemade pecan rolls. As he pulled away from home and down the gravel drive in his Grandfathers’ truck, his eight year old sister stood on the sidewalk, his discarded bicycle light blinking in her palm as she waved goodbye. I stood behind her as we watched him leave and she asked “What are you going to make for breakfast the morning I leave?”
Most of the objects here were made to help me remember a specific moment in time. Created from drawings, by the time I have finished the object, other concerns have influenced the work and sashayed the finished piece away from my original idea. The emotional link that ties most of these works to one another is a consuming frustration about war, concerns about parenting, patriotism, and the politics of engagement in conflicts. Add to this, the darker fear that things like human trafficking, and corporate greed are part of the fabric of this civilized society and my little boat feels very small and not so safe. My mother used to say that “men are rivers and women are wells.” Maybe this is so, but I find myself much more concerned with how well we can all float, and who slips under the waterline.
An acquaintance of mine lost his son to suicide. The funeral service was conducted with the young man’s remains in an urn placed In the front of the church before the alter rail. When the mass was over, the boy’s father; ignoring the solemnity of the procession, stepped forward, grabbed the urn and tucked it into the crook of his arm like a newborn and marched out of church with his son. A cradle, a casket and a boat are the same thing at different times. Each has its roll in comforting, confining, and conveying.
Cradle Casket Boat is about saying goodbye while holding on so that you won’t have to.
Julie Byrne, Pope on Wheels, ceramic and mixed media, 42x22x28, on loan from Mark and Java Kitrick
Julie Byrne, Fast Rat, Slow Boy, clay, 22x14x9”