Harriet Sanderson: Uneasy Landscapes is a 25-year survey encompassing experimental and traditional prints, drawings and sculptural installations, as well as a suite of new, large-scale prints created specifically for this exhibition. Ongoing themes in Sanderson’s work include the physical body as the primary maker of experience and identity; the powerful influence of chronic illness, aging and disability on self-identity; and an exploration of game playing, boredom and imagination in relation to seemingly endless interludes of physical idleness required in rehabilitation. Sanderson’s recent exploration of connect-the-dots play suggests a heuristic for viewers feeling their way through the landscapes, skinscapes, bedscapes and star maps in the work.
Gallery is closed on Sunday and Monday.
For Harriet the body is the site of knowledge, the source of specific experience and the place at which her experience becomes universal. The body is the beginning of art in her own myth of origins, in the connect-a-dot games of an illness-haunted childhood that moved from mattress to skin, mapping a realm of habitable territory, a terra cognita. References to skin are myriad: they are in the landscape of hills that becomes a range of pig ears; in digitized prints of her finger, arm, knee; the pattern of pores superimposed on mattress pad or sky. The body speaks by memory from before there were words for what was felt in the flesh, before classification of images could occur; a memory stored in nerves, muscles, bones. A memory of skin; the skin’s memory.
Starting with Sanderson’s early landscapes, and the travel snapshots from which they were abstracted, the exhibition traces a path from the identification of landscape with body, and from print, to object, to installation, to digitally manipulated photo collage. Elements of earlier installations are given new context, while video in the upstairs room provides documentation of the originals. Tilt, a ten minute video of Sanderson working to balance a chair on four upside down canes, connects the process of making art with disability itself, while expanding on the sculptural installations in the gallery below, and on the tenuousness and difficulty of patterns of normalcy. Patterns of normal gallery viewing are also inverted here: the incorporation of Braille in the large print collages made specifically for KAC, like the fetishistic “toys” on specially designed table-trays, are sincere invitations to explore with touch, to use the skin’s eye in the “viewing” of this work. Touching is permitted here; the body is permitted here.
In this most recent work, Sanderson circles back to where the journey of life and art are one. Uneasy landscape became infirm body becomes firmament. Quilting becomes sky, sky becomes skin, skin becomes Braille, flesh becomes word. In the language of touch, identity is formed and expression given – the body one with the origins of art and culture. Trace the shadow on the wall, cast the pictures in the stars: it’s the most fundamental, the most universal of human activities. Connect-the-dots is what we do, spinning fragments into coherence, into narratives and landscapes of the embodied self.
Harriet Sanderson is a conceptual visual artist working in experimental and traditional printmaking and large-scale sculptural installations. She lives and works in Seattle, Washington, where she earned her MFA in printmaking from the University of Washington. Her nearly four-decade career includes over 20 solo and 60 group exhibitions, nationally and internationally. Sanderson has received grants and commissions from the Puffin Foundation, City of Seattle Arts Commission, King County Special Projects, King County Arts Commission, and Bellevue Art Museum. She received the Wynn Newhouse Award in 2008 and the University of Washington Timeless Award in 2011.
Select exhibitions include: Re/Formations: Disability, Women and Sculpture at the National Institute of Art & Disabilities and Davidson College, supported in part by a grant from National Endowment for the Arts (Davidson NC, 2009); LIMBUS, at the Jundt Art Museum, Gonzaga University (Spokane WA, 2007); LAG, at the former Sand Point Naval Station (Seattle, WA, 1999); and Expanding Dimensions in Printmaking, The Art Gym, Marylhurst College (Portland, OR, 1997). Sanderson’s work is in numerous private and public collections including the permanent collections of Tacoma Art Museum, Jundt Art Museum and Harborview Medical Center. www.harrietsanderson.com