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Decatur Arts Alliance presents Proximity exhibit on Feb. 16 at Decatur visitors center

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Decatur Arts Alliance presents Proximity exhibit on Feb. 16 at Decatur visitors center

Breathing Room by Lauri Jones (left) and Bali Friends by Jane Shaw (right) are part of the Decatur Arts Alliance's Proximity exhibit. Photos courtesy of the Decatur Arts Alliance.

Decatur, GA — This Friday, Feb 16, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. is the opening reception for “Proximity: A Community Exhibition” presented by the Decatur Arts Alliance. The show is free and will be on view from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 16 until March 24 in the Decatur Arts Alliance Gallery at the Decatur Visitors Center at 113 Clairemont Avenue.

“Proximity” will be the Decatur Arts Alliance’s first exhibition of the year and will feature 26 works from artists across the Atlanta Metro area. In advance of the show, Decaturish sat down with the organizers Executive Director Angie Macon, and Project Manager Emily Mottola for background on the theme of the upcoming exhibition.

“I think that having even a broad conception of a theme allows artists to be more cohesive in how they think about submitting work,” Mottola said. “Especially if there are a lot of artists exhibiting, it can be helpful to have that through line.”

“We started from the fact that it was gonna be around Valentine’s Day, and began asking ‘How can we look at connection in different ways,'” she added

Mottola and Macon want to allow artists and audiences to think more abstractly about “closeness” and “distance,” and how these concepts are tied into their lives and relationships.

“I just love that it’s thought-provoking,” Macon said, talking about the theme of Proximity. “I think we could all be pushed a little bit more to think about things.”

The description for the show says, “In an age of constant communication and increasing loneliness when identity and ideas drive both conflict and connection, [artists and audiences are] encouraged to consider the pitfalls and possibilities of Proximity.”

For exhibiting artist Jane Shaw, Proximity is reflected in the way her work keeps her close to fond memories of faraway places. Her submission, “Bali Friends” is an oil painting that reminds her of the culture of kindness in Bali where she saw the scene that inspired the image she created.

Cheryl Costly submitted a piece finished around the end of the COVID-19 lockdown and reflects the anxieties of the time.

“We were all coming out of a time of being separated, and we all wanted to be closer, and this work was about the awkwardness and desperation of that,” Costly said.

The 79-year-old fiber artist is making what she calls her “Decatur debut.” Costly recently moved to Atlanta to be closer to family. She had shown the piece before in Florida, but after the move, she said, “I thought I would never show it again, but then I saw the ‘Proximity’ prompt and thought that’s exactly it.”

Costly began practicing fiber arts after a full career in business and education, and 27-year-old fellow fiber artist Leah Gossett from Chattanooga is on the other end of the spectrum.

Gossett describes herself as having always been an artist, or at least always “doing random creative stuff.” She went to graduate school for ceramics in West Georgia, but wanted to try something new, so she began fiber arts.

“I started missing home and began looking more into traditional Appalachian fiber arts and that just skyrocketed my interest,” Gossett said.

Her piece “It runs in the family” is a mixed media piece connected through the materials used in traditional Appalachian modes of expression, namely metalworking and fiber arts. Gossett takes what are traditionally gendered materials out of their context. Her knowledge of both disciplines allows her to fuse and create with these materials, “interrupting the way the objects are traditionally used” in a way that stokes the fire of Appalachian tradition by playing with its gender roles.

To Gossett, Proximity means feeling closer to home, maintaining her connection to her cultural roots through her artwork, even though she is now in Carrollton, Ga., teaching high school.

Lauri Jones, yet another fiber artist, echoed some of these same themes, speaking on the “moment” textiles are currently having larger in the art world.

“Part of the reason they have not always had the spotlight is because textiles are traditionally, mostly, created by women… on top of this they are sort of a more intimate, domestic practice, apart from the classic art institutions,” Jones said.

Jones said she hopes we “continue to embrace the tradition and history that textiles have as being functional, traditional parts of culture, while also recognizing the opportunity they provide the opportunity to be experimental and try new things.”

Jones has been a middle school art teacher for 15 years, and she talked about her journey as an artist, specifically in the context of being a mother and having a job. She said she works in pockets.

“And the piece (‘Breathing Room’) is meant to reflect the nearness that comes with that,” Jones said. “The process of cultivating the physical and metaphysical space and time needed to create as a mom, as a spouse, and as a teacher.”

Jones talked about the themes of caregiving and motherhood in her work, the positive impact of sharing her creative space with loved ones, and how she strives to embrace and challenge notions around domesticity.

Macon also stressed that the Decatur Arts Alliance works to make all their events free, to provide as little barrier to entry as possible. Both she and Mottola hope the Alliance can be a platform to step into the art world, for both artists and the public.

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