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Exhibitions: Past

The Beast and Me

Works by Mary Kenny, Leslie Schomp, and Andrea Scofield Olmstead

March 3 – April 1, 2016

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This exhibition was produced by the gallery as part of its ongoing Visiting Curator Series.

The Beast and Me was proposed by Leslie Schomp in response to the gallery's 2015 Call for Proposals.
In this provocative project on view in the gallery, each artist investigates human relationships to the animal world. Sometimes whimsical, these depictions reflect and alternate between our "fear and love" of animals. The complex and conflicted relationships we have with animals are powerfully portrayed in the work of each artist. As pets, as food, as laborers, entertainers, pests, companions, and as divine symbols of our spiritual selves, it is notable how ambivalent we can sometimes be toward an animal's welfare and how much we drift between humanizing and demonizing them.

In addition to Schomp, the exhibition also features the work of Mary Kenny and Andrea Scofield Olmstead. Mary Kenny's sculptures are beautiful, humorous, and evocative; works that hint at a narrative vague enough to allow free interpretation by the viewer. Andrea Scofield Olmstead's drawings and sculptures are the inspiration for, and integral to, her process of writing books for children. Leslie Schomp uses self-portraiture as a starting point to navigate and understand the world around her. Her life-long interests in drawing and line form the basis for her sculptural work. Together Schomp, Olmstead, and Kenny, take us on a journey of discovery. Their work although playful and, at times, disquieting, reminds us of the importance of acknowledging our affiliations and connections, as well as the contradictions in our relationships with the world around us.

The gallery is delighted to present The Beast and Me project.

Kathleen Hancock


To see individual elephants and their cultures, and to witness, if not through their eyes, through, as the Fox from Le Petit Prince suggests, the heart. A way of seeing that meets elephants through the lens of a new paradigm, a trans-species way of knowing that we are 'kin under the skin.'
   — G.A. Bradshaw, Elephants on the Edge

The human and animal relationship is a fascinating one. It alternates between fear and love. Our cultures are dependent on animals to help us survive. They feed us, clothe us, work the land, help us fight wars, and carry us across great distances. They are symbolic and spiritual representatives. We are alternately cruel and kind, making them fear or love us. We treasure our pets, but kill other animals for food in fear and for sport. The artists in this exhibition address these relationships by exploring their identities, dreams, memories, and images as they relate to animals through behavior, roles, and symbolism.

The work in this exhibition fluctuates between animals as "other" and "same". Animals play a role in our lives from a very young age. We learn about the world through toys and stories that feature animals acting out human behavior. The idea of animals in children's literature is a recurring theme throughout this work. Very young children don't necessarily see animals as different but as an extension of their human world. The artists attempt to regain this sense of "extension" in their work.

This is all explored in the work of Andrea Scofield Olmstead who is writing a book about cockroaches attempting to care for a neglected little girl living in the South. Olmstead, who despises the insects, writes that they symbolize "self-sufficiency, genetic adaptability, and resilience to trauma", and they also make an unlikely pair. Bringing these two characters together is believable in this beautifully drawn world. We are able to enter into the underlying pain and trauma of this girl's abandonment and allow the insects to pick up the pieces in a way that would be daunting to most. Olmstead uses her daughter's likeness for the main character and her memories of the South where she grew up, both visual memories and life memories of watching children around her grow up in difficult situations. In this way, she explores her own roots and feelings.

Mary Kenny's "odd experiences, strange thoughts, and recurring dreams" fuel all of her sculptures. While her female subjects may not look like her, they represent her. Animals have always been featured in her work, but it is her recent work that seeks to record experiences in her life. She has travelled extensively and seen animals from around the world.

Leslie Schomp's drawings and sculptures are self-portraits that investigate animal behavior. In order to develop self- awareness, Schomp portrays herself as popular literary animal archetypes such as a cunning fox, protective elephant or loyal dog. She is particularly interested in animals that are associated with insulting names for women. Her hybrid drawings and sculptures question whether we project these traits onto animals or are we just simply alike. She explores the primary experiences that both animals and humans have, such as hunger, protection of family, fear, depression, joy, aging, and love.

Animal skins have long held a fascination and fear for humans. We hunt, wear, touch, and fear the skins of many animals. The artists in this exhibition reflect on this in various ways. Andrea Olmstead's charcoal drawings record not only the textures of the creatures and humans but also the world around them. Old wood, hair, peeling wallpaper, tin, rust, and crackled paint are a very large part of how she works the charcoal. We seem to understand that life has texture. Her work is full of the memories of these places and the interactions of these characters. Mary Kenny's clay creations are often mixed with fur, hair, textiles, and indeed, textures in the clay itself. Couture and fashion are always suggested in both the gestures of her female sculptures and in the animals they interact with. Leslie Schomp's drawings and sculptures are obsessed with how animal skin (chicken skin, elephant skin, horse hair, fox fur) can translate into drawn line or sewn edges. She is interested in subjecting the self to the condition of another and, in doing so, finds an empathy with other creatures.

Leslie Schomp


Mary Kenny

1996 MFA, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA
1992 BFA, UMass Dartmouth, Dartmouth, MA

Selected Solo and Group Exhibitions
2014 Adorned, Gallery 224, Harvard Ceramics Program, Cambridge, MA
2014 Independent Artist and Instructor Exhibition, Gallery 244, Harvard Ceramics Programs, Cambridge, MA
2013 All Agency, Chandler Gallery, Maud Morgan Arts, Cambridge, MA
2012 Teamwork, Chandler Gallery, Maud Morgan Arts, Cambridge, MA

2014 Residencies/Visiting Artist Harvard Ceramics Program, Hand Building Visiting Artist
2005 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant Finalist
2004 Fall River Council on the Arts Grant
2002 Somerville Arts Council Fellowship

Andrea Scofield Olmstead

1999 MFA, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
1993 BFA, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Teaching Experience
2012 – 2014 University of Massachusetts, Lowell, MA and Emmanuel College, Boston, MA
2011 North West Florida State College, Niceville, FL

Selected Solo and Group Exhibitions
2013 University of Massachusetts Lowell Faculty Show Lowell, MA
2013 Franklin Art Center, Franklin, MA
2000 Linden Street Studios, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Leslie Schomp

1997 MFA, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA
1993 BFA, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL

Selected Solo and Group Exhibitions
2014 It's Just Me, GRIN Gallery, Providence, RI
2015 BFA 90s, Lovey Town, Madison, WI
2015 Pulse, Faculty Exhibition, Cantor Gallery, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
2014 Swell, GRIN Gallery, Providence, RI

2010 Research and Publications Committee Grant College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA
2008 Massachusetts Cultural Council finalist in Drawing