Two artists are coming together in a show that explores how pieces can be different but also can converge.
“Parallel Intersections” by Maureen May and Barbara Ellard will open Friday at Studio & Gallery.
For the two friends, the idea of distance and coming together was a challenge not only artistically but literally as well: May lives in Durango and Ellard in Springdale, Utah, just outside Zion National Park.
“We came up with that title because we are diametrically opposed media: She’s ceramics, I’m printmaking,” said May, who has been with Studio & for 3½ years. “Even though you can combine the two, we’re not; we’re working separately, we’re working quite a distance away – literally and technically. But we are intersecting by being inspired by each other’s work.”
May said the two have known each other for years – Ellard and her husband used to have a second home in Durango.
For “Parallel Intersections,” May is concentrating on prints and Ellard on ceramics. In keeping with the theme, each artist comes to the exhibit with her own style that while separate from the other, meets at some point. May is planning to show 25 pieces and Ellard, 33.
“We’re trying to complement each other, and hopefully, we’ve done that, but not in all the work – and that was intentional,” May said. “We’re working in totally opposite work, and also our visions don’t go necessarily in the same direction. But it’s cool to be able to come together and share a vision. We’re still each our own, and we each have work that will not necessarily follow the other’s, but that’s OK. We wanted to be collaborative but also personally creative.”
May is showing a series of monotypes, one-of-a-kind prints worked on a flat surface of a plate. The ink is transferred onto printmaking paper without the use of a press. Most of her pieces are full sheets (22x30) and can take anywhere from five to seven hours each to make.
Ellard’s contribution is a mix of old and new: She’ll be showing some older, more functional pieces made up of vases, bowls, pitchers, and her newest work, which is a collection of pieces she calls “botanicals.”
“They’re representative of pods and leaves and vines. They’re put together as sculptures after each element is fired,” she said. “They’re mostly monochromatic – they’re either an off-white or black, or sometimes a combination of the two.”
Ellard’s newest work also presented a challenge for May, who originally based her work on Ellard’s older pieces. But it was a challenge she enjoyed.
“I had to do a switch because I was doing prints based on her past work. So, what I’ve concentrated on is boiled down to three things: I’ve focused on her line, her shapes and her color,” May said. “It was a fun challenge. It took me a while to get into it, but then I started flowing, and then I had to stop.”
The two started working on the show last year. “We felt our work complemented each other,” May said.
Bridging the physical distance between the two – Springdale is almost seven hours away from Durango – has presented challenges, they both said.
“We’re not able to physically communicate with each other – I can’t see here work; I can’t see the nuances in her work and vice versa,” May said. “All we can do is find some connection, which has been the challenge: ‘What do I connect with?’ I’ve experimented a lot: I’ve created some pieces that I’m not crazy about, and others that I’m pleasantly surprised with. We’re not parallel: we’re somehow intersecting, and trying to find where that intersection takes place has been the challenge.”
“We’re just kind of exchanging photos of what we’re working on and trying to make it a cohesive show,” Ellard said.
But in the end, both May and Ellard said the result is well worth the effort.
“I think every show for every artist is important because it gives us a chance for other people to see what we’re working on,” Ellard said. “All artists are interested in expressing themselves, and some people don’t really care too much about having other people see their work, but to me, it’s important: I like to get feedback, I like to see how people feel about my work, is it something that gives them pleasure or some kind of emotion? It’s valuable feedback for me.”
For May, working with other artists keeps her work fresh, she said.
“Collaboration, I think, is very, very important in the art world because we learn so much from each other,” May said. “A working artist is always learning, and once we stop and get too complacent in our own little world, I think we stop growing, and I think it shows in the work.”