Gelb Gallery Exhibit Shifts Shapes Into a Story

A man dressed in all black rides atop a wagon with yellow wheels pulled a white horse past onlookers. They stroll next to a thin fence in front of a dark gray building. Painted with rough strokes, the horse’s legs and neck blend into the blurry gray background which is dotted with dark shadows of trees and buildings, making the scene appear dusty and dark.

This painting is one of 31 pieces in Meg Lipke’s “Shapeshifting” exhibit currently on display in Gelb Gallery. The exhibit was brought to Andover by Emily Trespas, Instructor in Art, and a former classmate of Lipke in graduate school.  

According to Trespas, she and Lipke meticulously planned and thought out the installation of the exhibit. Lipke brought countless pieces for display, including one sculpture that weighed over 60 pounds, but ultimately decided that it would distract viewers from smaller wall pieces.

“It is a wonderfully quirky and playful installation while at the same time smart and reflective. The pieces stand on their own, but in installing the exhibit with Lipke, she created a new composition on a single wall… Often [when] curating an exhibition, some pieces talk to each other — as do Lipke’s creations on the wall —  while other pieces drown out a quieter creation,” said Trespas.

Lipke’s exhibit incorporates a variety of objects including paintings, stuffed fabric sculptures, photographs, and weavings created by herself and by her grandmother.

“My intention was to incorporate [my grandmother’s] works with mine in a dialogue that really is about art making and feminism. Her works were made using her immediate surroundings… I feel that there were certain limitations that her life contained because of her economic status… By including her work with mine — and recognizing that more independent life choices have been available to me — I am creating a connection through time to her and her work and memory,” said Lipke in an email to The Phillipian.

One piece that stands out is an irregular U-shaped sculpture, painted with alternating layers of metallic silver, rusty gold, and muted pink. Portions of the sculpture bulge out towards the viewer while others arch away.

“I appreciate the different layers [of color] within the art piece, like the pink, aluminum and the rusted, faded, old newspaper-type color. I just feel like it all goes well together and they complement each other. It kind of reminds me of an animal if you look at it from a certain angle,”  said Tessa Almonacy ’21.

Another piece features a similar structure and medium to the previous sculpture, depicting two organic rings with one framing the other. Each ring, covered in layers of textured fabric, is painted with blue and earth-toned patterns.

“I like the different patterns that go around the outer ring… The color changes also add to the [‘Shapeshifting’] theme. [I also like] the whole warped aspect. No part is set, all bent in some sort of way,” said Harrison Wilson ’20.

One of the paintings consists of a turquoise background blended with darker shades of green and blue. The background is painted over with black stripes that form the vague outline of a face partially covered by shadows, while the other half of the face is filled with colored dots and stripes. Camouflaged in the painting are layers of lines going in all directions as well as repeated motifs, like hints of a human eye found in several places within the painting.

Samantha Lee ’20 said, “[It seems] disordered, but also placed very thoughtfully. When you look closely, you see random blocks of pale, washed out colors, but as you pull back you can almost see the figure of a body created by the negative space.”

In another piece, only the front of the unusually shaped sculpture is painted and outlined in black, giving it the illusion of being flat. The shape is divided by straight and curved lines into smaller, abstract forms, each of which are framed by a cream color and painted black, red, and brown with small cream dots in the center.

“It has some very complementary colors, and the shape is defined but also ambiguous. It has many patterns that are seemingly random, but when you pull back far enough, it brings you a sense of comfort… It has a lot of potential growth, because everything is all kind of jumbled together at this point, but you can kind of envision what it would be like if all these things expand,” said Sophie Liu ’20.

“Shapeshifting” will be on display until the closing reception — which Lipke will attend — on October 21.