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Sarah Robison, teaching, learning, and interpretation manager
Aug 28, 2023
For each new season of exhibitions at the Wex, the center's Learning & Public Practice Department creates an illustrated learning guide, an educational resource intended to share information and inspire engagement with the artists and works on view.
You'll find the complete learning guide for the autumn 2023 exhibitions here. And below, Sarah Robison, the teaching, learning, and interpretation manager in Learning & Public Practice, offers an introduction to the gallery exhibitions, revealing the threads that connect artists Sahar Khoury, Jumana Manna, and Harold Mendez.
This is one of the first things we ask when we meet someone new, yet the answer to this seemingly simple question is often complicated. We are all from and of many places, including our neighborhoods, our hometowns, our region, or even the countries of our ancestors. Our connection to locations can be formed from our own experiences, or it can be passed down to us from family and close friends. Often, we are from more than one place. Threads tie each of us to locations and cultures near and far.
In their exhibitions, Harold Mendez, Jumana Manna, and Sahar Khoury all explore the nuanced complexity of being connected to specific locations through their familial and cultural heritage. These artists’ projects speak to the stories of their own inherited cultures, while also grappling with the difficulties of being distanced from them through personal, social, or political forces. Their practices are transnational, crossing borders and boundaries in search of a dialogue between the past, the triumphs or struggles of the present, and an imagined future.
Khoury, Manna, and Mendez tell their stories in the form of multimedia artworks, particularly three-dimensional sculptures and installations. Although each incorporates a wide range of eclectic materials and found items, they have all chosen to work in ceramics in unusual and exciting ways. Ceramic forms start out as clay, which comes from the earth and holds the impressions of our hands and tools as we mold and shape it. Clay requires transformation; raw materials, combined through the undeniably human process of trial and error, become something new. The clay sculptures engage with other artforms in the galleries, including collage, film, found objects, and assemblages. At the core of these exhibitions, the ceramic works embody and explore humanity.
To create their artworks, the artists undertake deep research. They travel to the places of their ancestors, engage in conversations with their communities, and test new materials and techniques. The resulting works have layers of meaning. When we look at the objects they present to us, we might wonder, how does lived experience show up in these works? What memories do these materials contain? Together, Khoury, Manna, and Mendez’s practices ask us to consider how items get their meaning and the role that they play in helping us hold on to what once was, across both great distances and time.
Top of page: A guest takes in Harold Mendez's Field (2022) during last week's Exhibition Opening Celebration; Photo: Terry Gilliam
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