“Exit Allegan,” the new art exhibit in the Flora Kirsch Beck Gallery at Alma College, raises awareness about the paper mill industry located along the Kalamazoo River and other environmental clean-up sites in Michigan’s Allegan County.
The creative work by Michigan artist Sarah Lindley opened Nov. 4 and continues through Dec. 5. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. A closing reception is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5.
Lindley, a professor of sculpture and ceramics at Kalamazoo College, generated the series of sculptures from a desire to understand both the landscape and what is concealed beneath the surface. The Kalamazoo River was once integral to the foundation and past prosperity of small communities along its past, but it later fell victim to contamination by the many area paper mills during the 20th century.
“Lindley’s austere, elegant work often uses clay to create fragile architectural surfaces,” says Carrie Ann Parks-Kirby, professor of art and design at Alma College. “She then installs her forms to create contemplative environments that reveal her concepts to viewers.”
Structural renditions of architecture and shifting sediment were formed with clay bodies that were saturated with stains and oxides. This saturation allowed the material to take on an ambiguous color and surface that connects it to both industrial materials like iron and organic sludge and sediment.
Lindley referenced topographical maps, aerial photographs and city records in order for the work she constructed to follow the natural evolution of the architecture and terrain. The same linear elements used to compose the mills were stretched, rolled, manipulated and layered to create the river. The final loose and open structure exists in a brittle state, spanning cinder blocks and paper pulp islands.
“This tension reflects my perception of place,” Lindley says. “It shifts scale and emulates force and fragility, power and passivity and intimacy and isolation.”
Lindley received her bachelor in fine arts degree from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She went on to get her master’s degree at the University of Washington.
She grew up in Cleveland Heights and has lived in Chicago, New York, Seattle and Kalamazoo. Her past exhibitions have been displayed in Milwaukee, Oregon, Arizona, North Carolina and South Korea.