ARTS & CULTURE
By Pamir Kiciman
When artistic photographer Eve White was five years old she had a birthday party at Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park. The details of the celebration are now dim, but she never forgot the place. In fact, it became her creative playground in adulthood, as it was the fun playground of her childhood.
White opens a new exhibition with images made at Rock Creek Park May 6 at Chapel Hill’s new fine art gallery and custom frame shop Higgins & Myers.
With a background in dance, product development, design and visual communications, White makes photographs with plexiglass cube forms she places in nature. The cubes have other images and materials she has made inside them and sometimes lighting.
White purposefully creates works that are open-ended, inviting the viewer to imagine, explore and experience the meaning it brings them, rather than impose an interpretation at the outset.
“I don’t believe that artwork needs to solve a problem in order to exist,” White said over email. “I made this art as I make all art — to exorcise feelings and then share them, generating an exchange or conversation.”
A photography session for White typically means visiting a site up to three times, for about half a day each time. She prefers natural light. “I enjoy racing against daylight, trying out different combinations of images and backdrops to see which ones feel alive,” she wrote. “I’m moving, responding, and flexing to the opportunities while being delicate and intentional with the space. Seeing a visual connection or coincidence occur in real-time is electric.”
Eve White will be the first national artist showing at Higgins & Myers.
Owners Scott Higgins and Emily Myers opened their eponymous shop in January 2021, at the location formerly occupied by Framer’s Market and Gallery in Chapel Hill’s Rams Plaza. They offer a wide variety of services and curated products. The shop staff also includes Laulea Taylor and Caelum McCall.
“Caelum, an artist and framer, has been part of the team since last August,” Myers said. “We met Laulea when she moved to Chapel Hill and was hired as one of our co-workers, which grew into friendship really quickly. While we all participate in every facet of the business, I’d say we try to play to each team members’ strengths in operation overall.
“In terms of [my and Scott’s] partnership, we think of the “Higgins” side as being the framing and the “Myers” side as being the fine art gallery, just because those roles are best suited to our professional backgrounds and what we really enjoy. In practice, though, you’re just as likely to find me fitting a frame as Scott working on an exhibition layout – same for Caelum and Laulea.”
Higgins & Myers wants to be a hub for artists and the public, connecting art with art lovers. Myers notes the abundance of talented local artists, many of whom can’t find the support or resources to have their art reach the hands of collectors and others who buy art for their homes or offices.
Laulea Taylor is putting in place a print-on-demand service that she created in Athens, Georgia which “allows artists to get high-resolution art captures of their work and gives them a platform to sell it,” she explained. “We handle all the sales and shipping. There’s no overhead for the artist.”
Taylor says providing a digital showroom, together with the shop’s physical wall space, will help artists avoid cost-prohibitive upfront print runs and other expenses. “We feature artist profiles and all the work they have available for limited edition prints,” said Taylor. The online catalog will also include original artworks of local, national and international artists. An added benefit is that these works will be available to designers and anybody regularly sourcing art.
The Higgins & Myers team all find the images in Eve White’s new show “CREEK” to be engaging.
“There’s a duality and juxtaposition that her work creates which challenges a viewer to consider the built environment versus the natural environment,” said Myers. “It challenges you to consider what these dichotomies mean and if they are really that separate.”
Chapel Hillians treasure the outdoors and experience similar dualities whether it’s concrete and pipes along a neighborhood greenway mixed in with the trees, vegetation and a creek, or hearing a helicopter or small-engine plane overhead while hiking in more secluded woods.
White says her art doesn’t have to bring a solution, and that if the work is one thing, it can also simultaneously be another. “I don’t think it’s binary”, she said. This view places her in the realm of contemporary conceptual art, although she resists being pinned down with a particular label.
In Conceptual art, the idea is paramount, while the object and materials normally associated with artmaking take a back seat. The movement’s progenitor is Marcel Duchamp and his 1917 seminal work, Fountain. It wasn’t called Conceptual art then (Duchamp was a Dadaist) and the genre has had a long, complex evolution, coming into its own in the 1960s and 1970s.
Artist Sol LeWitt wrote in his 1967 essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art” — considered to be a manifesto for the movement — that “the idea itself, even if it is not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product.”
We’re several decades removed from the origins of this influential movement, and many other art movements have since been established. It’s both limiting and imprecise to pigeonhole an artist or an art trend, and art history is often nonlinear.
For example, when Photo-conceptualism emerged it avoided access to the creator’s personality, and also prevented an emotional response from the viewer. It is dry, idea-based photography yet contemporary examples of it can also be highly emotive and evocative.
A better approach perhaps is to let the artist and the art speak for themselves.
“The plexiglass cases attracted me because their structure allowed me to place images inside and then wall them off,” White wrote. “I feel that nature is bombastic and, at times, walled off. I relate to that tension and was driven to express it. The transparency of the cases allows two landscapes to exist together without fully merging.”
White has an emotional basis for her work (“I feel first”), and it comes across to viewers. A gallery-goer once told her the colors in a piece felt, “warm like honey and cool like ice. I still feel buoyed by the fact that the colors reached her in that way,” she wrote.
Higgins & Myers also wants to cast a wider net. “Part of our vision is to support artists beyond North Carolina, because it creates a dialog, and we’d like to see some crosspollination and generation of creative ideas that can help everybody grow,” said Myers. International artist Hugo Laurencena will close out the year at the gallery.
“I love the idea of bringing something to Chapel Hill that this area has never seen before,” said Higgins. “The four of us look for artists who spark excitement and bring a new experience.”
When it comes to custom framing, Higgins & Myers prides itself on having a keen eye for conservation and preservation; they use only top-quality acid-free and archival materials and glass with UV-protection, as well as feature frames from artisan makers who eschew mass production.
Eve White’s “CREEK” exhibition will be on view for two months at Higgins & Myers. The opening reception is May 6, 6-8 p.m. with live music accompaniment.
Pamir Kiciman is a writer, artist, healer, and meditation teacher. More on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/reiki.wordsmith/ Twitter https://twitter.com/reikiwordsmith or email: firstname.lastname@example.org