The Page Bond Gallery and guest co-curators Dr. Heather McGuire and Dr. Sara Desvernine Reed are pleased to present Signs of Life: new work by Khaled Al-Saa’i, Marguerite Courtney, Hillary Fayle, Anoka Faruqee, Penelope Gottlieb, Jason Hackett, Ledelle Moe, Jaydan Moore, and Clay Witt, Friday, April 29, 2016.

This group show of contemporary art is grounded in the intersection of time, history, signification, process and abstraction. This exhibition draws from local, national and international artists who engage art’s ability to reflect, sometimes through circuitous routes, natural and cultural signs that can shift based on one’s perspective.

Syrian Artist Khaled Al-Saa’i’s abstract paintings manifest as layered and dissolving fields of calligraphic script. While some words may be deciphered, the overall import is one of signs that yield to abstraction, emotion, and fields of color. In addition to works on paper, as shown in this exhibition, Al-Saa’i is often commissioned to create site specific installations, most recently in Asilah, Morocco and Germany. He lectures about art and demonstrates his painting process on multiple continents, including Mexico, Morocco, Germany, and Kuwait and currently at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Marguerite Courtney’s silver gelatin photographs capture the ocean from the water’s surface. This unique vantage point emerges from Courtney’s experiences on the water, where she is immersed in atmosphere, directional light, buoyant surface tension, observation and action. Her luminescent images materialize a reflective landscape that seemingly suspends time, place and action. Courtney’s work has been exhibited internationally and has received many awards including the Grand Prize at the Emerging Focus International Competition Photo LA in 2012.

Hillary Fayle is a 2015 graduate of VCU’s MFA program in Craft and Material Studies with an emphasis in fiber. Her intricate, carefully constructed work using ephemeral botanical material has recently transitioned from leaves to feathers. Her needlecraft interventions reflect the fragility of our natural world and the complicated nuanced relationship that we experience with our natural environment. As she states, “By combining these organic objects with the rich traditions of needlecraft, I bind nature and the human touch.”

Anoka Faruqee, an Associate Professor of Painting at Yale University, has exhibited her work in the U.S. and abroad. Her optical work can be viewed strictly formally as an interplay of color and texture or through the lens of history. Optical illusions in the history of art have ranged from trompe l’oeil or fooling the eye to cheap tricks in popular culture. In particular, Faruqee’s Moire series plays with the optical illusion of moire fabrics, which have a watery impression. Once a highly skilled craft associated with expensive textiles, advances in technology during the nineteenth century allowed more people to enjoy this aesthetic in a range of fabrics. Yet in the digital age, moire reflects the unintentional pixilation or banding mis-registers found in print and digital images. Faruqee’s hand-made method of using thick, matte paint added to the surface of the canvas and then meticulously scraped away with a large toothed instrument, and finally sanded, adds to its unpredictable character and highlights the shifting cultural meanings associated with these patterns.

Penelope Gottlieb’s work cleverly plays with the iconic works of John James Audubon, and his nineteenth-century Birds of America series. Gottlieb explores contemporary issues of ecological crisis by adding strangling vines of invasive species, which have only more recently been recognized for their part in catalyzing ecological destruction. Like many of the other artists in this exhibition, Gottlieb’s work is subversive in luring the viewer with her beautiful and seamless additions to Audubon’s work only to highlight the precarious and fragile world in which we live. As Gottlieb states, “The process of making the work mirrored the environmental violence of the phenomena. By appropriating these vintage reproductions, and ultimately staging my invasive interventions within them, I could enter into a dialogue with a historical representation of nature and insert my own voice and contemporary perspective directly.”

Jason Hackett’s ceramic installations intervene on familiar cultural signs by confronting them and at times pushing them towards a point of dissolution. For this exhibition, Hackett continues an extended series of interventions on imagery from the film Gone with the Wind. His artworks have been exhibited in museum and galleries throughout the United States at Alexandria Museum of Art, San Angelo Museum of Fine Art, The Mobile Museum of Art, The Virginia Museum of Fine Art, The Taubman Museum of Art, Arrowmont School of Art and Craft, The Craft Alliance Center for Art and Design, and internationally at The City Museum of Aviero in Portugal, Galateea Gallery in Bucharest. He teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University in the Department of Craft/Material Studies.

South African sculptor and Professor at Stellenbosch University Ledelle Moe sculpts steel and concrete figures, which despite their either colossal or hand-held scales, invite an intimate relationship with their drawn surfaces. Moe’s process explores place in works like Congregation, where she uses earth from particular sites. In Findings, she transforms the familiar, human figures, birds, spheres, and fish into mysterious arrangements through reductive abstraction and spatial re-contextualization. Unlike Michel Foucault, the French philosopher who theorized an archeology of time, where culture is deposited in sedimentary layers by era, Moe unearths this sediment and recasts it into monumental presences that cross divisions of time, place, and nature. In 2002 Moe received a Joan Mitchell Award and in 2008 a Kreeger Museum Artist Award.

Jaydan Moore’s work as a metalsmith is entrenched in memory and materiality. A native of California, Moore received his MFA and MA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has enjoyed various fellowships and residencies, notably a Fountainhead fellowship in Craft/Material Studies at VCU in 2013 and currently a three-year residency at Penland School of Craft. Jaydan’s interest in how an object moves through the world, changing in meaning as it is passed down, shifting in both personal and cultural relevance to the world around it is manifest in his skillfully crafted and conceived works with antique silver. Through deconstruction and reassembly, Jaydan creates objects that are given a new history.

After graduating with an MA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Clay Witt studied art and Arabic calligraphy in Damascus, Syria as a Fulbright scholar. This process and locale informs his meticulous paintings that layer Japanese paper, carved and sculpted gesso, cool pigments, glazes, and gold leaf. Further study in Morocco appears in his luxurious colors, where abstracted rings of fire and atmospheric conditions are heightened by a luminescent focal point that radiates and casts shadows yet refuses to fully disclose.


Heather McGuire completed her Ph.D. at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2010 with an emphasis on modern and contemporary art that engages the play between words and images. Her dissertation on John Baldessari’s Blasted Allegories revealed new findings relating to cultural and critical theories that Baldessari appropriated and embedded as structuring elements in the series. She has presented research papers at conferences and symposia, including “Playing Systems and Meaning: Soliciting Heteroglossia” at the Southeastern College Art Association Conference in 2013. Her curatorial work includes exhibitions at 1708 Gallery, Page Bond Gallery, and as an assistant on the Visual Music exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum. She currently teaches art history at the undergraduate and graduate levels at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Sara Desvernine Reed completed her Ph.D. in Art History with a concentration in American art and decorative arts at the University of Delaware in 2013. However, her dissertation expands further into the Atlantic world by examining domestic advice found in Cuban popular magazines during the 1950s and 1960s, uncovering ideals of modernity and domesticity during a critical time of shifting ideologies. Since completing her Ph.D. she has been participating in conferences elaborating on certain aspects of her dissertation. One conference paper, “Women, Work, and Revolution: A Do-It-Yourself Practice,” for the College Art Association in 2015 has been further developed into an article for a special issue of Design and Culture to be published in March 2016. Sara also currently teaches undergraduate and graduate level courses in history and theory of interior environments in the Department of Interior Design at VCU. As a student of material culture, Sara is drawn to nuanced, skillfully crafted, and conceptually poignant works of art that underscore, challenge, and deconstruct our relationship with the world around us.

An opening reception will take place at the Page Bond Gallery on Friday, April 29 from 6:00 to 8:00pm. The exhibition will remain on view April 29 to May 28, 2016.

The Page Bond Gallery, located at 1635 West Main Street, exhibits contemporary art in a wide variety of media and disciplines including painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture and ceramics. The gallery acts as a venue for the work of emerging and established artists with local, national, and international reputations.