'People are messy': Two exhibitions at Northern- Southern Gallery explore humanity in different ways
“It’s a made-up word,” Matt Steinke says with a laugh about the title of his new installation un•verb. “But it’s kind of a… philosophical thread that runs through all the work in this exhibition. But it’s... first kind of looking at the verb as an object, as a thing. Allowing sort of abstract concepts when you have this ability to be still and read, or develop theories, write books, paint, put it down on paper. That kind of idea of stillness – I feel like that’s a very human-centric ability and that the actual outside world doesn’t behave like that at all.”
Steinke’s un•verb is one of two exhibitions currently on display at Norther-Southern, along with Drawing Conclusions, a new collection of portraits by artist and photographer Tyeschea West.
Steinke is a sound artist and a sculptor, and his new collection features several of his robotic sound sculptures, which he describes as “autonomous acoustic musical instrument[s].”
“There is a sort of curatorial approach I take to a sound installation, where I think about how all the sounds will either play together, or somehow be connected to each other in time or be synced perhaps,” Steinke says. “Or sometimes I plan for them not to be synced. And in this case, they’re not synced. They all work together, so they’re all similar kinds of sounds, maybe, in some respects. They share enough similarities that they work together. But I think of this exhibit more like the sort of experience of scuba diving or snorkeling, where you kind of move up, you kind of zoom into one object or one aspect of an installation and then you zoom out and you move into different parts of it. It’s very much an experience.”
The collection is akin to a community of creatures that inhabit the same ecosystem, Steinke says; they’re different and distinct from one another but peacefully co-exist.
In the back gallery of Northern-Southern, you’ll find a different and distinct exhibition that’s peacefully co-existing with un•verb: Tyeschea West’s Drawing Conclusions, a new collection of portraiture that combines her photography and painting skills. “I love portraits and people,” West says. “And I really wanted to do more than just be behind the camera and I wanted to actually use my hands in this process. I wanted to do that with the idea of introducing layers and depth to a person, so that was basically my inspiration for this work.
“I feel like people are messy,” West says. “And there’s so many layers and so many things going on that inform who they are and motivate them. It’s just a mixture of things, and I just wanted to kind of reflect that in the pieces with abstract paintings… at the bottom layer.”
West’s work captures not just a subject’s exterior, but some of their internal life as well. “People are very complicated, and there’s things that are very subtle and things that are very obvious,” she says. “And mixing those things together, jumbled up, but also having different layers to be able to see those things – I just really wanted to try to create that kind of experience with the viewer.”
Some of the portraits are of people in West’s life and some are amalgams meant to represent emotions and feelings she wanted to capture. “It was an exercise in trying to put myself in somebody else’s shoes,” she says. “You know, the whole idea of empathy, which is a big part of my art and my mission with my art. I feel like I still have work to do with that, being more compassionate and understanding, and so being able to try to get into the mind of somebody else and what they would want to say and what they would want to express and their perspective on things that I don’t really know about… I felt like I really wanted to try to explore that.”