Works on Paper by
Mariam Aziza Stephan
Opens Saturday, September 14, 12 – 8 pm
Reception with Artists: Saturday, October 12, 5-8 pm
Exhibition catalogue available for purchase
Saturdays & Sundays 12 – 6 pm
On view through October 27th
469 Main St., Beacon, NY 12508
On view in the Reading Room are 18 works on paper selected from the larger body of work by Mariam Aziza Stephan. Small, intimate 6 x 18” drawings; India ink on paper, but paper that has been cut open and reassembled with additions and deletions, like the sacrifice zones they represent. Presented directly on the wall without framing, the surfaces evoke the land in an unmediated display. Each poem by Julia Johnson is numbered to accompany its corresponding image, presented on printed pages to be read by the viewer. Also on display and available for reading are books that have informed, or relate to the artist’s and poet’s work. Novels, photobooks, poetry and essays on the notion of place and displacement are featured.
We once thought we could cross at the dock
Our hands bloody from the crawl
We swam until our skin weakened, pulled ourselves onto the shore (JJ)
Darkened skies, shadowed craters in the ground, piles of rubble, pockmarked walls, bridges with railings turned into roadblocks, houses with the walls sheared off, boulders that block paths, slabs of broken concrete, rising dark water filled with floating debris, felled trees and sinkholes. The landscape itself is the threat. These works convey the chaos that war and environmental disaster brings to a place.
As we look around we wonder, where is this, what happened here, why? The once occupied landscape is a no-go zone. Streets are passageways that must be negotiated and scrutinized for dangers both underfoot and overhead, for hidden traps or threats. Water has become fouled and dangerous, air has become rank, mingled with particles of soil and poison. Where did everyone go?
Hostile territory, a ravaged landscape- the disasters of war, environmental degradation and man-made zones ravaged for resources then abandoned.
Of her project, the artist Mariam Aziza Stephan states: “This work is about loss. The drawings serve as mediations and records of both places and states that either no longer exist or are in the process of disappearing. These constructed landscapes piece together fragmented scenes of conflict, abandonment, and disarray and attempt to link ecological and psychological upheaval. Firsthand experiences of loss, as well as the residual affects passed down through family and community. How do we synthesize the felt, seen, or told narratives that continue as reminders and echoes of suffering or sacrifices?
This work took its form in 2016 when I began to formalize my drawings in direct response to Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War etchings. The extent of the series currently consists of over one hundred individual works on paper in a 1:3 format to exaggerate an expansive horizon on which a drama unfolds.
Each time I returned to Goya’s images I felt their relevance and persistent contemporaneity. All of the distinct works consist of India ink forms collaged and/or fragmented into a disjointed simulacrum of contradictory natures and contrarian ideals. They reference both corporeal and emotive experiences that suggest displacement and the pervasive uncertainty that’s created while asking how the physical and psychological upheaval can take on similar shapes. These abstract spaces also act as visual metaphors emblematic of shifts in the social fabric and hybridization of our communities as well as ecological imbalances. They frame expansive spaces through landscape markers alongside quiet, removed isolated pockets in which the viewer can settle.
Of her collaboration with the poet Julia Johnson, Mariam says: “I wanted to find a poet that complements and adds to the ambiguity of description and abstraction within my work through text…The sense of loss, polarization, and fracturing that I have attempted to construct in these images is meant to simultaneously reflect upon and memorialize the time we live in and recognize our shared accountability.”
Still life: Capture this on the table
Capture this in time and hold it there as if it once was breathing
There is a misshapen rule we guide ourselves by (JJ)
About the Artists:
Mariam Aziza Stephan was born in Pittsburgh, PA and studied art at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (BFA 1995) and the University of Washington, Seattle (MFA 2002). Her work has been exhibited domestically and abroad including the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Mobile Museum of Art, Henry Art Gallery, and the Gezira Art Center in Cairo, Egypt, and is included in the permanent collections of the Raleigh Municipal Art Collection, Raleigh; the Mobile Museum of Art, Alabama; and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, Cairo, Egypt. Stephan has received awards including the 2018 North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship Award and served as a 2010-11 Fulbright Scholar to Egypt, and currently serves as Associate Professor of Painting at UNC Greensboro.
Julia Johnson, a native of New Orleans, earned a B.A. from Hollins College and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from The University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. Prior to joining the faculty at UK, she taught at Hollins University, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and in the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. Johnson is the author of Naming the Afternoon, published by Louisiana State University Press, which won the George Garrett Fellowship of Southern Writers New Writing Award, The Falling Horse, published by Factory Hollow Press, and most recently Subsidence. She served as editor of Mississippi Review, including a special issue on The Prose Poem, as well as an anthology, 30 years of Mississippi Review. She edited The Collected Poems of Jane Gentry. Her poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Poetry International, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, jubilat, Tin House, and numerous other journals and anthologies. Julia Johnson is Professor of English and was the Founding Director of the new Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at the University of Kentucky.