Foundry Art Centre Debuts Two Bold New Exhibits

click to enlarge Sarah Knight's work is on display at the Foundry Art Centre starting April 1. - Courtesy Sarah Knight
Courtesy Sarah Knight
Sarah Knight's work is on display at the Foundry Art Centre starting April 1.

Paint melts off the side of one of Sarah Knight’s sculptures, dripping a rainbow of colors, while other sculptures glisten with yellow glaze in a waterfall cascade. Some of these sculptures sit atop a bed of sparkling rocks collected from Knight’s family’s lakeside cabin. You can peer into windows on another sculpture, to see a galaxy of crystallized rocks and an array of colors. If it sounds difficult to tell what exactly is going on in these works of art, that’s the whole point.

Jessica Mannisi says they look like a kaleidoscope exploded. Mannisi is the director of arts and exhibitions at the Foundry Art Centre (520 N Main Center, St. Charles; 636-255-0270). She selected Knight’s work for an upcoming exhibition there entitled, Crystal Queer.

The artist tells the RFT they felt drawn to create these types of sculptures as an ungendered individual who identifies as trans. Knight’s practice, in their own words, centers around crafting “ambiguous, not really recognizable sculptures that are materially fascinating and represent a bridge between the natural and artificial.”

“A lot of my journey has been kind of unlabeling things,” Knight says. “A lot of experiences that I've had have been based around the idea of a set language and set labels and set understanding of how certain things function in society. [I’ve realized] that, quite literally, all of this is made up so that we can more easily categorize people.”

Knight describes working through each sculpture as a sort of black hole, smashing the pieces – nature's geological gifts, refined ceramics, naturally derived pigments – together and undermining the idea that something’s value is tied up in the way we can understand it. This, Knight explains, is their way of pulling at the strings of value, hierarchy and identity.

Knight faced struggles preparing the exhibit. In mid-January, while creating a sculpture, Knight’s studio kiln stopped working, exploding the piece inside and snapping it in half. Finding inspiration from the incident, they used it to develop three or four larger works.

Knight’s gallery is being shown in tandem with Kaleidoscope, The Art Form, a collaboration between the art center and the Brewster Kaleidoscope Foundation, beginning April 1. The kaleidoscopes in the exhibit, all handmade, are crafted from carved wood, stained glass, or even recycled bracelets.

click to enlarge Kaleidoscope creations are on display next to Knight's gallery. - Courtesy The Brewster Kaleidoscope Foundation / Foundry Art Centre
Courtesy The Brewster Kaleidoscope Foundation / Foundry Art Centre
Kaleidoscope creations are on display next to Knight's gallery.

In early January, Mannisi reached out to see if Knight would be interested in exhibiting next to the kaleidoscopes. She was drawn to the juxtaposition of not really understanding what you’re looking at — but being amazed by the beauty. The kaleidoscope exhibit is meant to challenge the idea of what constitutes art; Mannisi says she doesn’t think a lot of people would think of kaleidoscopes as art. Knight’s work complements that.

“Sarah's work is this aggregate of ceramics and glaze, but also concrete and plaster and literal rocks and things like that,” Mannisi says. “Their work is really challenging those emotions of identity and the definition of queerness and all of those kinds of things.”

Knight’s sculptures took roughly 400 hours to create, including many trips to Menard’s and hours spent hauling bags of concrete up and down the stairs when the kiln broke down. When that happened, St. Louis artist Catharine Magel allowed Knight to use their studio to finish up their exhibit. They also heavily leaned on friends and family during the creative process.

“This exhibition is a community effort,” Knight says. “I've been encouraged to be really experimental with my materials and be really experimental with my scale and the way that I'm building out the exhibition. Jessica at the Foundry is just like, ‘I trust you. You have this space, this is your vision. And I'm here to support you.’”

Crystal Queer and Kaleidoscope, The Art Form are on display until May 13. Mannisi says there will be certain days guests can visit the kaleidoscope gallery and look inside, so check for updates.

Follow Jenna on Twitter at @writesjenna. Email the author at [email protected]

Jenna Jones

Jenna Jones is the Audience Development Manager for Euclid Media Group and Harry Styles' biggest fan.
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