Artist: Jan TalmadgeDavids
Exhibition: To Hold a Letter To the Light
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Merlino Gallery
About the Artist:
Jan Talmadge Davids is a local artist here, residing in Huntington Beach. She is about 45-years old and is currently on route in getting her BFA in Ceramics. Although Jan is currently a rising artist, she started off by majoring in a field completely unrelated to art: anthropology. I find this aspect truly inspiring because it just shows that your passion can become your career if you work hard enough. Jan was married for a time, but is now using her time to focus on her artwork.
When you first walk into the gallery, you are met with hanging notes made out of ceramic. It is aesthetically pleasing, with the dim lights hanging along with the notes. Some of the hanging ceramics were made to be paper, and others were made to resemble envelopes. The paper was made to have some texture to it, as if it was an old note that had just surfaced. Some papers were wavy, others were semi-straight, and some were crumpled. It was truly amazing how she created these envelopes because the notes were written on the inside of the clay envelope and the audience would have to use a flashlight to read through the ceramics. In the two corners would be crumpled up paper-like ceramics that also had some sort of writing on it.
The idea behind her work was to showcase the memories she had throughout her life. This gallery allows us to see her life in her own perspective, rather than just simply reading about it. Because of the way this gallery is set up, we see her own emotions and her own thoughts; she shows us the vulnerable side of her. This is interesting because the everyday people try to keep this vulnerable side hidden to the public. These significant factors on the notes tell the story of an ordinary person who faces hardships based on her emotions, her love life, her gender, etc. Each of the notes or envelopes that were hanging spelled out a little snippet of her life. For example, in one of the envelopes, she talks about how she would use her “woman card” to get new tires for her car. In this, she satirically shows how the female gender, because they do not know anything about cars, are more likely to get conned into buying car parts for high prices. As for the notes inside the envelope, I feel like those hold her more intimate details and the more secretive side to her. It is something she was hesitant about sharing, but still chose to anyways. The crumpled pieces on the floor in the corner shows her thought process put into the gallery and which memory she deemed important enough to be read by the audience.
I was drawn to this gallery immediately because of the hanging envelopes. I thought this was a creative and unique gallery. It didn’t have paintings or photography like the other galleries; it was interactive. We were told to use flashlights to help us read some of the notes that were inside the envelopes. I enjoyed how personal her art was. Usually, people don’t really talk about having sex in all the rooms (written on one of her notes), but it adds a different perspective to the situation. It shows how much passion there was in her relationship and how in love they were for that time. The gender equality aspect also made me think. In one of her notes, she states how her woman card would get her into paying $400 dollars for a car part she didn’t need. Although that did not happen to me, I feel like I have been ripped off while going to an auto shop because of my gender. It was a simple gallery, but it carried meaning, and that was why I was drawn to it.