DOTHAN, Alabama — October 13, 2020 — “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers,” an exhibition surveying works by Alabama native Sara Garden Armstrong, will open at the Wiregrass Museum of Art (WMA) on October 16. The exhibition represents an artistic legacy in Alabama and New York spanning six decades, bringing together handmade artist books, paintings, sculpture, and mechanical, light- and sound-based installations from the 1970s to the 2000s, as well as recent works covering Armstrong’s artistic production up to the present day. Armstrong’s continuing practice interprets life cycles and metamorphosis using movement, color, sound, texture, and light.
“A native Alabamian, Sara spent much of her career in New York City, but this exhibition, and her accompanying monograph, is a homecoming of sorts. WMA’s galleries provide unique opportunities to create new conversations between works of art across Sara‘s decades-long career. I’m looking forward to presenting this body of work in a way that hasn’t been seen before,” said Dana-Marie Lemmer, WMA’s executive director and curator.
The exhibition is guest-curated by Paul Barrett, who organized “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers” at the University of Alabama Gallery and the Arts Council Gallery in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in Tuscaloosa. Barrett began representing Armstrong’s artist books at the art gallery AGNES in Birmingham in the 1990s.
“Sara has an enviable archive of work representing most of her career. I knew I wanted to reintroduce her to Alabama audiences in a way that would be vital. I don’t call ‘Threads and Layers’ a retrospective because the word makes me think of dead people, and Sara is very much active and present. This installation is very different from what we showed at the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in several ways. A few works from Tuscaloosa won’t be on view, but four bodies of work we didn’t show previously are in Dothan. Some of these works have never been exhibited before. My hope is that every visitor can see the threads running through Sara‘s practice and enjoy something beautiful and new to them,” said Barrett.
Armstrong first had the chance to survey and archive her work in 2015 when she was selected to be part of the Create a Living Legacy (CALL) program with the Joan Mitchell Foundation. After having lived in New York City for 35 years, Armstrong was moving back to Alabama and rediscovering pieces she had stored since the 1970s and ‘80s.
“The CALL program was an amazing experience especially at that moment in time for me. It gave me an organized way to look at my work, folks working on archiving it and time to do it. Artists don’t look back very much. Always your best work is supposed to be in front of you or what you are doing at the moment,” said Armstrong.
For Armstrong, the chance to work with Barrett on the show has been a continuation of the examination of her life’s work that began in 2015.
Armstrong now lives and works in Birmingham, where she founded the cooperative art gallery Ground Floor Contemporary. The monograph “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers” will be published this fall and can be pre-ordered at www.saragardenarmstrong.net/.
The general public is invited to experience a sneak peek of “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers” during WMA’s extended evening gallery hours on Thursday, October 15 from 5-7 p.m. General admission is free. All museum guests are required to wear a mask and to observe posted physical distancing rules while in the galleries. The exhibition will be on view through December 31.
WMA will host a book release event for the monograph “Sara Garden Armstrong: Threads and Layers” on Tuesday, November 17. Details will be released in the coming weeks.
Digital images available upon request.
About the Wiregrass Museum of Art
WMA’s galleries are open to the public every Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. General admission is always free.
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