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July 7—27, at VAE Raleigh
Red Hat's year-long sponsorship of the Lab at VAE Raleigh is drawing to a close. The last exhibition, "indelible marks: what we've been, or might, or never will" by Eliza Kiser and Emily Malpass closed on August 24. Over the year, we gained insight into the nuances between collaborating in technology and collaborating in art. When software engineers collaborate, they combine efforts on a massive scale to write, fix, and improve one another's code. When artists collaborate, they form a much more intimate and intuitive relationship.
There are many ways of working together.
In the case of Hung: A collaboration of metal and clay, artists worked together directly, putting their individual efforts into each distinct piece to produce shared creations with joint authorship. In others works, such as Off Route Journals, artists combined efforts and worked as a team, each adding their own work to a larger collection unified by shared thoughts or mutually understood themes.
In still others, the collaboration was more abstract or inspirational, where the collaboration took the form of one artist's response to the work of another. Recurring Dream, a collaboration between poet Katie Byrum and visual artist and printmaker Jade Hoyer, lands in this category. Byrum and Hoyer met at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnston, Vermont in March of 2013, when each was there for a residency. Their collaboration began, as many do, through friendship and mutual admiration. Although Byrum was there to work on a book of poetry, and Hoyer was there for studio time, they took notice of each other's work. Hoyer asked Byrum to read some of her poetry.
Hoyer was struck by one poem, To the River House, in particular. About it she said, "It really got me. There was just something about it. It resonated with me from a visual standpoint, I think. And that line, ‘now I look at my life with a seasonal madness,' resonates with all the moving around I have to do to keep working as an artist—all these moments of transition that define our lives. That poem for sure grabbed me."
Years passed. Byrum and Hoyer kept in touch as they kept working and growing separately as artists. Then they heard about the LAB at VAE and their year-long theme of collaboration. Hoyer approached Byrum about using her poem as a point of departure for an installation. The germ of the idea had been with her for years.
The mood—it's not nostalgia, but more like longing and recognition that something is receding into the past—and some of the imagery found in "To the River House" had reminded Hoyer of the small bungalows and Sears kit houses in the Lake Nokomis neighborhood in Minneapolis where she'd lived.
"The ideal of tidy uniform neatness, and a life that you are leaving behind… I just kept seeing that place. The old suburb, no longer really a suburb, but part of the city, and being at home there, and then leaving that. So many of us have a place like that… home, but no longer home."
For her installation, Hoyer fashioned silkscreen houses modeled after the ones around Lake Nokomis. Connecting each home, written in gold on a long strip of parchment paper, is Byrum's poem—connecting Hoyer's work to hers and connecting the houses to each other. At first glance, it looks like a collection of somewhat uniform homes on the wall, each with its own tiny astroturf lawn in front. But if you start at the beginning, and read the poem as you follow the strip of paper through the neighborhood, it has the effect of moving through something, as if you are in a car passing through the place where you grew up, one last time, on your way to someplace new.
Our sponsorship of the Lab at VAE Raleigh was very productive. It sparked several fruitful collaborations and forged new and enduring bonds among artists. It sent a clear message to the community about the value Red Hat places on working together. It was also a chance for the creative community at Red Hat to participate in (and collaborate with) the community of artists here in Raleigh. We supported their work, and took some inspiration from their collaborations. The connections made were lasting and important. Although it's over for now, we're already looking for another way to promote collaboration and enjoy the benefits, both anticipated and unexpected, that result from sharing and working together.