In the thicket of their expression05/11/2021 03:42PM ● By Richard Gaw
(In photo): Four artists will be displaying their latest work this Saturday and Sunday at the Scarlett Thicket Farm in Kennett Square, as part of the Chester County Studio Tour. From left to right, Constance McBride, Lauren E. Peters, Katee Boyle and Leah Wells.
By Richard L. Gaw
On a recent Friday afternoon, four artists – Katee Boyle, Constance McBride, Lauren E. Peters and Leah Wells – walked through the empty spaces at the Scarlett Thicket Farm in Kennett Square, buried in a kind of last-minute and creative hellfire.
They were just eight days removed from the opening of their two-day collaboration at the Chester County Studio Tour on May 15 and 16, and over the next week, each artist curated and retrofitted their latest work into the crevices of a barn, and through the power of their images, the jitters of finishing a new installation will transform into an artistic nirvana.
For those who visit Studio No. 53 at Boyle’s Scarlett Thicket Forge on the Chester County Studio Tour this coming weekend, they will see the merging together of strength, vulnerability and narrative – all woven from the same fabric of the feminine perspective and told in the manner of four artists who choose to express their message without veils.
“All of our work is so different,” said Boyle. “We are women, telling similar stories from four different perspectives.”
Peters’ entry in the tour is the latest stopover for a series of vibrant self-portraits that breaks open the way we see ourselves through the prism of society’s heightened awareness for self definition. Her self portraits have earned her a fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts as the “Emerging Artist” in the painting category, and led to her work being displayed around the country. A studio artist at the Delaware Contemporary, she recently curated an exhibition there that invited 17 artists to create their own interpretation of her 2016 painting, “portrait (orange).”
“The whole approach to these series of paintings stems from the fact that while I don’t like being the center of attention, I really like bright colors, “Peters said. “The perspective of my paintings is that while I will hide my face in the composition itself, it still has the full effect of a self portrait.”
For ceramic sculptor McBride, exhibiting a preview of her series of eight busts she calls “The Lonely Girls” -- which will be fully unveiled this coming November -- is an extension of a personal story she has been telling through her art, one that is reflected in a career that explores themes of identity and memory, with an emphasis placed on issues most experienced by women.
“My mother died of Alzheimer’s and a brother-in-law whose father died of Alzheimer’s and my sister-in-law died of Alzheimer’s,” McBride said. “This is an issue that is just not going away, and the expansion of this series is important for me. I think we all work through personal issues through our art, and frankly, the more personal the art is, the more universal it is.”
Throughout her emerging career as photographer, Wells’ photos have earned recognition for what has become her signature look of ethereal moodiness, intensified through the hands-on creation of analog layers that enhance her images. For Wells, making a photograph often involves processes like chlorophyll printing or Zia type printing, vellum overlays, dyeing with indigo, gilding, handmade paper, oxidized metal or botanical dyes.
“I became weirdly obsessed with making botanical contact prints – dyeing paper with flowers,” she said. “I don’t know how I stumbled upon it, but I tried to transfer pigment to one of the prints, and it really worked. I continue to explore transferring with paper and film, and everything has begun to spiral into all these processes that became a big lasso I threw into the air.”
In her work as a visual storyteller, Boyle explores a wide range of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video, words, sound and installation to create the artifacts and narratives attributed to her work. A conceptually-driven expressionist, her stories stem from personal tributes to an unyielding faith in the power of emotional responses. This weekend, visitors will get to see her latest collaboration with photographer Carlos Alejandro.
“Part of Katee’s feminine voice is about being liberated,” Alejandro said. “It is about being freed from the very things that tie us down -- our culture, our history, our gender, our socioeconomics. For me, it was, ‘Let’s break those bonds and deteriorate the image.’ I believe that my craft is in a lot of ways the emotional context of the image, so that the medium itself is also part of the image and not just a picture.”
“I don’t give people answers through my work,” Boyle said. “I want it to speak to everybody. I want to teach people to learn to learn to slow down and look at a full story. And while I am not giving away the ending, I want them to walk away with their own interpretation.”
In a recent social media post, Boyle wrote that a major component of her art has been to “illustrate second skins, or memories through the female form. I speak to the human experience from the only perspective I have, the female voice under the influence of social conditioning and internal suggestions.
“My work is my response to life, and I’m not giving answers. If the looker should walk away with questions, then I have done my job.”
This exhibition will be No. 53 on the 2021 Chester County Studio Tour, which will take place on May 15 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and on May 16 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Scarlett Thicket Farm is located at 284 West Street Road in Kennett Square.
The 2021 Chester County Studio Tour, sponsored by Citadel Federal Credit Union, is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.countystudiotour.com for a map, artist and studio listings, and the catalogue.
For more information about each participating artist, visit:
Katee Boyle: www.kateeboyle.weebly.com
Constance McBride: www.constancemcbride.com
Lauren E. Peters: www.laurenepeters.com
Leah Wells: www.leahwellsphotography.com
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].