At Engagement Studios, the Old City creative collective and media studio startup InLiquid Art + Design has the work of four women artists on display for their exhibit “Reflections.” Among the eclectic work of Alexandra Coultas, Mary Henderson, Lisa Imperiale and Gina Michaels, one can find realistic oil paintings, architectural mixed media works and patterned prints. The artwork is also being used to develop digital ‘gallery games’ designed by Ashley Scrivener, Jenna Savage and Nicole Hewitt.
Alexandra Coultas, “Untitled 3” and “Untitled 2.”
Setting the orange outline of a spiral staircase against a mottled gray background, in “Untitled 2” by Alexandra Coultas we find an interior that appears to be slowly falling into the void. Like the abandoned warehouses and factories that capture the imaginations of urban explorers, this work appears in some degree of disrepair. Behind the curving stairway to nowhere, bricks fan out into a jagged halo of collapse while the liquifying floor fades into cooler gray-blue colors. Unlike the neglect that causes dilapidated buildings to crumble, Coultas’s decrepit depictions are quite intentional. Mirroring the bricks, her “Untitled 3” contains a rocky protrusion of pixels in browns and blacks beneath a tall, rusty tower. Partway between the disintegration of time and the deconstruction of collage, these pieces seem to forever exist in a state of being made or unmade.
Mary Henderson, “Farmers Market.”
Mary Henderson’s paintings could be snapshots from any big United States city – full of scenes of bike races, brunches and protests – but these are no photographs, and their locations remain as anonymous as their characters. Obviously the bands of roving Guy Fawkes-masked protestors are anonymous, but what about the more familiar faces in “Farmers Market” that sometimes make us do a double take? Are these friends of ours, or perhaps merely people we’ve passed on the street? The bearded man wearing an orange shirt in “Brunch” tells a story, and it’s hard to imagine we haven’t been to this very cafe before. By tapping into these commonplace communal activities and frequently comfortable locales, Henderson paints ordinary occurrences that glow with nostalgia and a familiarity that lies just out of reach.
Gina Michaels, “Reflection 10.” Image courtesy the artist
For her part, Gina Michaels includes prints that emphasize nature and its manipulation by the human hand by way of her process. Although the outlines and veins of ferns, twigs and various other forms of foliage seem wholly organic, the aqua and orange hues differ from reality in their inky perfection. This is, of course, to say nothing of the arrangements, which are all quite conscious. Sometimes Gina Michaels will present a complicated, translucent layering of these natural images, while others are strangely reflected versions of themselves – something that is rare or impossible to find on an average nature hike. Lisa Imperiale similarly engages the environment, but like Coultas, the environment is not always one of plants, but one of human-built forms and conscious design.
Prototypes of the gallery games are also installed in the gallery near the artwork, which visitors are welcome to play between taking in the views of these four artists (not to mention the Shira Walinsky mural on the way in, also courtesy of InLiquid). “Reflections” will be on view through May 29.
Engagement Studios is located at 222 Vine St., Philadelphia; 267-685-6080; engagementstudios.com.