Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Breathing Space

Evenly Balanced, 48"x36"x2", acrylic, Duralar on cradled panel, Mary Zeran c 2012, available

Studio shot

Something I love about the internet is the ability to look at exhibition installations.  I've realized that I tend to have too much work in a space.

With officially a month and a half left until the install date at MAE,  I took some time to hang the work on my studio walls.  My studio isn't as big as the show space but,  this exercise helped me see how the pieces related to each other.

During a recent conversation with a friend,  I said I had about 25 + pieces available.  Their reply was "That sounded like too much work."  They were right.  I've discovered  since my new work  has such a strong use of color,  I need to include more breathing space between pieces.

MAE's exhibition space is tricky.  It is long and narrow, a shotgun sort of space.  Formerly a local drugstore, it has a window at the one end and then a counter at the other.  If you look in the window,  you eye goes to the back of the space right past the exhibition walls.  The walls right by the window need to have something full of drama to call people to step inside.

Drips and Daubs:  Dena Tollefson artist
As you approach the gallery from the inside,  there is a large doorway.  What you see through that space also needs to be strong, really grab your attention and pull you into the room.  Then,  the placement of the work needs to draw the viewer around the space so they remember to look at the wall behind.

I had three personal goals for this show;
1.  work larger,
2.  use bolder color,
3.  include some more traditional collage.

Drips and Daubs:  Mary Zeran artist
By including some works on paper,  I am hoping to help the viewer understand more about my process.  Many times, people don't understand that my work is collage and not painting.  (Due to all the layers of glaze,  it is hard for folks to see the individual pieces between the layers.)  Personally, I enjoy the amber like effect the glaze gives but, I am also drawn to the contrast between flat paper and glossy Duralar.

This time around, I am doing something different with the cradled panels. Some of my edges are natural wood instead of painted white.  I've included some framed works (3 total).  I'm using the black and natural wood to contain the work,  hold in the movement.  I also hoping the black frames will help add weight to the space and add punctuation on those long walls.

Of course,  we all know that we can do a mental layout but...a person never really knows how it is going to turn out until you get the work in the space and actually start hanging.  The count of pieces included has been whittled down to  around 10-15. Four large scale and then several smaller works.  I've included smaller sized pieces to help give a sense of movement.

To read more how to plan an exhibition go to this link on my other blog.  Museum curator Sean Ulmer's interview is full of great things to ponder.

In addition, there are some wonderful shots of his museum installations.  Looking at the photos of spacing between the larger works is such a great resource.

For a view into a great example of how a gallery hangs work,  go to Von Linten Gallery/ NC at this link.  Their photos of Yvonne Estrada's show are fantastic.  Not only do I love Estrada's work, it is so helpful to be able to see how the pieces have been grouped.  Each drawing seems to talk to the one next to it. The grouping of 4 smaller works makes a nice statement and pulls your eye around the corner from the bigger work.


  1. Mary, I like that you are concerned with your viewers and their mis-understanding of your collage process. Very clever solution doing some on paper.
    Thanks for the links. :)

    1. Thank you Carole, I think about the viewer constantly. Do they understand what I am getting at. How does the work make them feel. All that sort of stuff. I like to imagine we are having a conversation. xo

  2. Hello Mary... back form the coast where it rained.. a lot... but was delicious!
    funny thing... BUT....
    i saw the final photo here and thought you had painted a huge square painting. My eyes were playing tricks on me and it took a minute to see that actually it was a small square sitting on a shelf.

    My message is... paint a very large one one day! Look at that one like i id and see it up large... on a super thick "canvas" almost like a wall... is this a mad idea to suggest to you. I dont paint big much myself....so I think it is not me just being fanciful!

    As for your work for this show... I dont have answers ...just encouragement to you because I like that each show you rethink what might be a good thing to try. THAT is the successful thing ...you are learning each step of the way and refining each part of the whole thing!

    Lovely to see all the studio views Mary!!!!

    Good working... its looking wonderful from here!

    1. Hello Sophie,

      I just looked at the photo and you are right. It would be good to try that one bigger. I felt sort of "mad" when I painted that powder blue circle. The scale of the line was sooo thick (unusual for me) and the powder blue seemed risky. Isn't that funny to be scared of powder blue?

      As for learning? That is the thing that keeps me interested. It is the hook. And when I see all the work together in the studio, I get so excited because I can see all the possibilities for new work! I always overuse the words exciting, amazing, phenomenal but...they really describe the act of making art for me. That exciting moment when you start composing and discovering what will happen. xo

  3. When I saw that last photo I was really thrown back. Man, you are painting murals now! Funny to see that Sophie also saw that. I bet it would be fun. You could also just project it large and paint the projection. But it could be like those big, Helen Frankenthaler or I always think of Pollack with a paint gallon tied to a string from the ceiling of his studio and a hole drilled in the bottom of the can dripping paint out.

    One time I made a large space into smaller areas with a 4'x8' sheet of birch and used hooks and wire from the ceiling so that I could hang some work on it. Maybe this could stop the length of the space. Or just put your savory opening table perpendicular in the middle of the hallway.

    I do really love that middle pic on your flicker on the right and also the one that 'wants' to be a mural.

    1. Lisa,

      Hello, and thank you. You and Sophie make me laugh...you see the possibility of my painting future and it is fun!

      And...I like the space modification idea. Only thing stopping me? Lack of energy..HA!

  4. hi Mary- I really like "Evenly Balanced"! I like how the horizontal and vertical elements direct one's eye. Your large work is very strong!
    It is funny, I thought the same thing as Sophie and Lisa- looks like the last painting is huge.

    Take care- keep painting!!


    1. Thank you Dena!!!

      You need to come over and see it in person. There is a lot of detail that can't be seen on the blog.

      You three gals must be kindred spirits!!!

      Keep Painting too!


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