Antiques mix and mingle with modern technology in the Carnegie Visual and Performing Arts Center's current show All Mixed Up. While the first floor is devoted solely to antique quilts, the artwork displayed on the Carnegie's second floor runs the gamut in terms of media. David Rice's sculptural lights and Jim Talkington's photographs occupy two galleries, while Ray Neufeld's installation and Thomas Hieronymus Towhey's abstract paintings are on display in others.
The spacious first-floor gallery has been transformed into a winding maze hung with antique quilts. The colorful quilts were completed between the mid-19th and mid-20th centuries. Although their origins vary, all are on loan from Greater Cincinnati private collections. The exhibition includes everything from painstakingly traditional to offbeat crazy quilts and is a welcome glimpse into local collections.
Surrounded by friends at the April 18 opening, Joyce Foley, who curated the exhibition, described how quilting is in her blood: "Quilting is in my family — I can go back four generations, and I'm sure they were quilting before that." Foley, a member of the Boone County Historical Society and self-described "history nut," became fascinated with old quilts. She did the research for the labels.
They're informative but also lighthearted — a number of them describe "happy quilts."
Stains and frayed fabric hint at the quilts' histories, whether they were treated as art, heirlooms or utilitarian objects. While some show the wear and tear of time and use, others are immaculate. An almost impossibly bright quilt from the 1880s is an example of the latter and was a topic of much conversation during the opening reception. The pattern has wavering blocks of brilliant marigold against a red background on a diagonal grid. It is called the Drunkard's Path, and, ironically, the pattern was associated with the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
In the Hutson Gallery on the second floor, with the illumination dimmed, David Rice's sculptural lights glowed softly. Rice recycles circuit boards and incorporates them into compositions with stained glass. The light fixtures fill the room and are wall-mounted, freestanding or suspended from the ceiling. Some take their form from repurposed old television sets or industrial light fixtures.
While one visitor looked around and remarked "We've got a lot of potential art in our basement," the exhibition has more complexity than that. The overall effect, whether intentional or not, is devotional. With the increasingly dominant role of technology in our daily lives, this aesthetic and idiosyncratic use of its defunct components seems appropriate. In the soft light lit in greens, blues, reds and yellows, visitors often spoke in the hushed tones of religious spaces.
In a nearby gallery, photographer Jim Talkington's "Forgotten America" series is on display. The photographs are titled by date and arranged chronologically from 1912 to 1972. In these black-and-white images, there is the implicit narrative of a life lived long ago. Although they are recent work, according to the artist's statement "these photographs are presented as a timeline of recollections from a prior generation."
The photographs, with their scratchy haloes, resemble early tintypes, but were created with a combination of film and digital processing. The images are remarkable individually, but also compelling as a series.
True to its title, All Mixed Up incorporates an unlikely combination of work — in terms of both time period and media. With its variety, the exhibition might offer something for almost any taste.