Saturday, August 1, 2009

Be it Ever So Humble... New Works by Michele Cokl Naylor

August 1, 2009 - September 9, 2009

Family • Mixed media collage by Michele Cokl Naylor

Ever look through a box of old photos, only to discover unfamiliar faces among the ancestors? It seems every family has a few snapshots nobody can identify. That became the foundation on which Michele Cokl Naylor built her new exhibition at the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery, "Be It Ever So Humble..."

As family historian, Naylor always tried to solve those domestic mysteries, to put names to faces and places. Yet when she wasn't able to do so, she found herself even more intrigued pondering the stories of these strangers. She began visiting antique stores in search of orphaned photographs from different eras.

Happiness • Mixed media collage by Michele Cokl Naylor

"I wondered about the lives of these people," Naylor says. "Were they happy? Was this their best suit of clothes? Why had they chosen to document that particular moment? Sometimes you can just see the hope and promise in their eyes. It was something I learned from my mother, that you never throw a photo away, even if you don't know who's in it. A photo always has worth because it captured a moment that will never exist again."

She gravitated to photos of families and their homes, a style that began in the late 1800s, as itinerant photographers carried their equipment through the countryside. Often family members would gather in the yard, sitting on chairs in front of their house.

"Owning a home was such a point of pride and it was a significant part of the family. Of course, it would be included in a photograph," says Naylor. "And now decades later, with so many people fighting to stay in their homes, we're reminded all over again of the powerful bond between family and house."

Known as a fiber artist and doll-maker, Naylor has been a member of the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery for 11 years. For her show, "Be It Ever So Humble…," she creates mixed media collage built around digitally enhanced photographs dating from the 1870s through the 1940s, all while incorporating her love of color and texture in the process.

"I have such admiration for women who, through the years, would work all day, then sit in the evening making quilts. I'm not a quilter in the traditional sense but have included fabric in many of the pieces for this show and often use a patchwork layout," says Naylor.

Braids • Mixed media collage by Michele Cokl Naylor

"Be It Ever So Humble…" is a portrait of a time very different from today, yet perhaps familiar as well.

"No matter how difficult things seem, we all want to concentrate on what's truly important and that will always be family and home," says Naylor. "I hope my show will evoke an appreciation of those who went before us, of how they lived and dreamed. And if anyone is inspired to look through their family albums, I would be delighted to create an original piece of art for them utilizing their own photos."

"Be It Ever So Humble…" will be on display at the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery from August 1 through September 9. The show's opening on Saturday Aug 1 at 5 p.m. coincides with the always popular Jerome Art Walk. Opening night will feature music from the 1920s and '30s, refreshments and a chance to meet the artist and discuss home and family and the creative process.