Photos From Here, Paintings From Below

Jacquelyn Gleisner | September 16th, 2021

Photos From Here, Paintings From Below

Kehler Liddell Gallery  |  Arts & Culture  |  Visual Arts  |  Westville


Installation view of Exposed Secrets: Marjorie Gillette Wolfe / Secrets Exposed: Kate Henderson at Kehler Liddell Gallery. Jacquelyn Gleisner Photos. 

Inside Kehler Liddell Gallery, the somber palette of Persephone in the Underworld sets the mid-sized painting apart from the rest of Kate Henderson’s work. Vermillion and deep blue flower-like forms crowd the dark background, connecting the title of the work with the theme of renewal. Queen of the underworld, Persephone also embodies the spring, when plants reemerge from the ground. 

In a nearby artist's statement, Henderson compares her longstanding interest in Persephone (pictured below) with the isolation of the pandemic. Similarly, Marjorie Gillette Wolfe pored over the digital files of her photography over the past year, and pulled out images that would be completely new to a viewer. 


Throughout the pandemic, opportunities for in-person art viewing have been sparse, and this exhibition reverses this recent trend of involuntary withholding. Exposed Secrets: Marjorie Gillette Wolfe / Secrets Exposed: Kate Henderson presents works from the past year alongside older, previously not shown pieces at the Westville art space through Oct. 17. 

Henderson’s artworks occupy the front portion of the gallery, running along the right side of the large interior. Her use of bright colors and expressive mark-making contrast with the reserved quality of Gillette Wolfe’s works, which are mostly black and white photographs. Each artist has broken larger bodies of work into smaller series, organizing the exhibition by groupings of aesthetic similarities. 

The depth of texture and color make Henderson’s paintings stronger than her drawings, and among the paintings, the aforementioned Persephone in the Underworld and its neighboring work shine brightest. With its shocking blue backdrop, Searching for Persephone complements the dark values of Persephone in the Underworld. In both works, Henderson’s abstract forms spring from the natural world, specifically flowers. She layers wiry networks of lines on top of soft smudges of color that dissolve into the rich hues of the background. 

Likewise, Gillette Wolfe’s photographs are most compelling when the artist presents crisp areas of distinct textures. For example, Whale Skull offers a beguiling scene at first brush. The title clues the viewer into the subject matter, but the composition is also an eerie version of a landscape. Along the bottom half of the picture plane, sprays of white dots interrupt the curvature of a black shape. The white tone of the cracked bone at the top of the photo can read as a sky, while the composition simultaneously seems to be an aerial view. 


Installation view of Exposed Secrets: Marjorie Gillette Wolfe / Secrets Exposed: Kate Henderson at Kehler Liddell Gallery. Jacquelyn Gleisner Photos. 

Gillette Wolfe has included two medium-sized graphite drawings in the show, and across different media, she exhibits a love for the gnarled and intricate forms of the organic world. For instance, the tangled web of branches in the photo called Cedar Tree Neck repeat at the bottom of her drawing, Rooting. Likewise, the balance of light and dark in Gillette Wolfe’s rendering of a pomegranate mimics the value contrast of Whale Bone

As a whole, the exhibition lacks the sensation of vulnerability that its title implies. For both artists, the politics of the past year and a half feel intentionally absent from their work. Henderson leverages her creative process as a form of catharsis, leaning into the healing power and timelessness of individual expression. Gillette Wolfe captures vignettes that veer from the specificity of a particular time, too. Yet for each artist, there are opportunities for visual investigation, if not conceptual depth. 

Exposed Secrets: Marjorie Gillette Wolfe / Secrets Exposed: Kate Henderson runs through October 17, 2021, at Kehler Liddell Gallery. To find out more about the gallery’s hours, visit its website.