Tell, currently on display at the Chapterhouse Gallery, is a survey of women artists. The show was guest-curated by local artists Jen Graham and Jeanne Jo. The transcript below is from an interview that took place the day after the opening among Graham, Jo and Ahren Hertel, one of the four Chapterhouse owners.
Torch: How did the show come about? What gave you the idea to do the show? Why the name? And was Ahren scared to let females in on the decision-making?
Graham: Well, the [Chapterhouse owners] approached us with interest in wanting to do an all-female show, and we thought it was a great idea to get a lot more female artists coming into the Chapterhouse. We came up with the name when we were thinking about the idea of women as the original storytellers. We were going through a thesaurus and looking up words that were related to that, and we came across the word “tell” and thought it was just perfect to sort of say nothing and everything all at once.
Hertel: We, as the gallery, were interested in doing it to broaden our artist space, historically—
Torch: You mean the history of the gallery? What is the history of the gallery? Two years? One year?
Hertel: It’s all seven shows (laughs). There hasn’t been that many women artists submitting, so we thought it would be a good way to introduce the gallery to more artists.
Torch: Why do you think there were not that many women submitting art before?
Hertel: I’m not sure—we are four guys that run the gallery, so that might have something to do with it.
Torch: Why are women the original storytellers?
Jo: Well, in the research that I was doing for the paper I was writing at the end of school, I was reading about communities of women, such as knitting circles and weaving communities. When these women would get together, they would tell stories … We thought that all these forms of communication were tied together—the language, the spinning of yarns, and it all tied back to textiles and, basically, women.
Torch: How was the show last night? Did you hear any comments?
Graham: A lot of people seemed really excited about it, and they really liked the concept. A lot of work in it came out pretty strong—people had a good response to that. There were a few people who were questioning the idea of it and why we were having an all-women show, but we figured the art supported itself.
Torch: How do you set up a show? Is it a difficult process?
Graham: It was difficult. … We just tried to contact as many people as we could to try and get them to show some work. It’s all a submission process, and no matter what we receive, we can never put everything in.
Torch: Does having an all-women exhibition represent a change in the Chapterhouse mission?
Hertel: No, I don’t think it does at all. Depending on which way it went, there could have been a big change, but it pretty much fits right in with our goal and what we want to show.
Graham: The style of the show looks pretty much like the other shows the Chapterhouse puts on … the strength of the art is the same.
Torch: So it’s not just about the art being women’s art? There was a theme to Tell aside from the fact that the art was made by women? Graham: Right. The artists being women isn’t necessarily the basis of the show. It’s just good art.