On Aug. 21, artists Cat Micheels and Jennifer Curry will welcome the public to "Now and Then," a lively exhibit at the Saranac Lake Free Library. Visitors will be greeted by swirling colors, three-dimensional abstract paintings and collages, as well as Cat's exploratory journey into the sensual world of pottery.
Words cannot justly encompass the powerful array of emotions that these two women bring to their canvases. However, the stories behind the artists may help shine moonbeams on their work.
Jennifer Curry, a Tupper Lake native, enlisted in the U.S. Navy two weeks after graduating from high school. She served from 1973 until 1976, working first in the field of aviation and later as a hospital corpsman. In 1977, she enrolled in Chabot Community College in Hayward, Calif., earning a certificate in photography and an associate's degree in liberal arts. While in California, she had her first encounter with what was to become a lasting philosophical influence on her thinking - the feminist movement.
Jennifer Curry and Cat Micheels
(Photo — Caperton Tissot)
Jennifer enjoyed living on the West Coast, but missing the East, returned to this area and worked a variety of jobs to earn money needed to go back to school. This she did, attending SUNY New Paltz for four years. She worked and studied at the same time, until in 1984, she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree with a focus on photography. It was then that she learned the process of making montages. Her fascination with this art form is evident in much of her current work.
Living by artistic skill alone is a risky endeavor, so Jennifer, needing a more dependable income and having enjoyed her experience as a hospital corpsman, attended North Country Community College and obtained, in 1991, an registered nursing degree.
She continued her art work, but in addition, worked several years as a nurse, part of that time in Albany. There, interested in alternative paths to healing, she joined the Albany Holistic Nurses Society. Some of this group's healing practices involved making ritualistic masks and medicine shields to protect the health of both body and soul. One of these medicine shields still hangs in Jennifer's home today. The round shape and spiritual symbolism make it easy to understand her evolution from the medicine shield to mandalas, which she began to incorporate into her art work. Mandalas are universal symbols for integration, harmony and transformation. They are found in many cultures, including those of Celtics, Hindus and Buddhists.
In 1998, Jennifer moved to Saranac Lake, and two years later, began to finally immerse herself in full-time artwork. She also took up the study of Tibetan Buddhism.
Her exposure to the healing touch work of Dolores Krieger, PhD, RN and the feminist artist, Judy Chicago, have been some of the greatest influences in Jennifer's life. Eastern philosophy, the feminist movement and alternatives to healing have given the thrust to her striking abstractions.
Her present exhibit includes montages, mandalas, photo collages and color pencil and oil-pastel abstracts. In more recent works, watery films of color spill over the circular edges, flowing freely to obscure the limit of boundaries. "Formlessness is sometimes what is called for to express the realms of freedom and liberation" she explained. Jennifer describes how she often returns to pieces she created as much as 30 years ago, continuing to rework them. In her words, "...I am influenced mostly by my other pieces that have evolved through the years."
She has had a number of gallery shows downstate as well as in this area. Her current exhibit consists of recent pieces as well as a few created years ago when she was at SUNY New Paltz, some reworked, some as she originally painted them.
Much of her work combines a misty motion of soft colors. A recent piece, however, is a startling triptych of angry reds and oranges. In a separate piece, she portrays the "beauty of butterfly wings," and describes how this portrays the belief that "you can turn anger into something very beautiful."
As Jennifer is showing a few images from the body of work she had completed during her university days at New Paltz, she thought it would be interesting to include pieces from an artist who is currently a university student. That student is Cat Micheels.
Cat Micheels was born in Malone and graduated from Franklin Academy Senior High School in 1975. While she was still a teenager, her artistic talent was recognized and earned her ribbons at the Franklin County Fair.
"I always had a pencil in my hands," she says of her youth, "but not the money to afford oil paints and canvases."
In 1977, Cat earned an associate's degree in arts and humanities from North Country Community College. Thereafter, she moved to Texas, married, returned, had her daughter and later divorced.
She suffers from a hearing problem which has become progressively worse, now leaving her with a 95 percent bilateral hearing loss. Perhaps for this reason, she says, "I'm very visual; it speaks to me. It is hard for me to express myself (in words). I use art to express myself."
Cat loves to teach and greatly enjoyed working with autistic children as a teacher's aide at a BOCES program just prior to the program finally closing down. Now, she is once more a student herself, attending SUNY Plattsburgh. She will graduate next year, earning a degree in studio art with a concentration in painting.
Until now, she has painted mostly representational work with colored pencils, graphite, charcoal and pastels. Last semester, she took a course from professor Tory Taber and discovered a love for abstract painting and design.
"At first I was quite intimidated by the concept of putting my raw emotions, ideas and thought to paper but over time I became comfortable with it..." she said.
She continues to create and exhibit representational art but says, at the moment the "abstract element of art is new and fresh to me. I feel like an explorer in a new land."
She will exhibit some of her representational art, which she still loves to do, but will also include some of her newest work which "reflects my emerging consciousness of the use of color, shape, lines, textures and patterns..."
She has developed an intriguing use of plaster on her canvases which lends a three-dimensional quality to the pieces. Of her introduction to clay work, she comments, "It is such an organic medium it connects you to the earth in such an amazing way. It's as if everything is coming out of your hands and fingertips.
A reception will take place, Aug. 21, from 4:30 to 7:30 at the Cantwell Community Room at the Saranac Lake Free Library. The joint exhibit will run through Sept. 6.
For comments or questions, Caperton Tissot can be reached at tissot@SnowyOwlPress.com.