“I am in a state of glowing movement — a comet entering the atmosphere of a new world set aflame by the sheer magnitude & force of a purposeful entry.”
Life itself is a journey — a process composed of steps. We aren’t given a roadmap for life. Perhaps we never fully see the finished product.
Joyce McCown’s Open Studio Show, which opened at Back Lot Gallery on Friday, embodies this notion.
Walking into the space located at 308 S. Park St. is like walking into an artist’s workshop. There are tables set up with paints, hanging art, couches, bookshelves, etc. It’s intimate. And that’s just how McCown, also the owner of her own business, MoonShadow Press, wants to showcase her work as she begins the next chapter in her life, discovering vulnerability and the meaning of recovery.
McCown, the daughter of Suzy and Keith Hankins, owners of Back Lot Gallery, is rediscovering her creativity and passion as the gallery’s new artist in residence, offering visitors the opportunity to see each step in the process of creation.
“This show is different because it’s an open studio,” McCown told The Banner-Press. “The purpose was to really dig in and have a space that’s spread out so I’m able to show people what it’s like on a more daily level, moving as a working artist. Instead of just talking to people about the art, I can kind of walk over to a table and show them what I’m working on and the steps. Everything on the walls is finished work, but I’ve left a few spaces open for new inspiration boards and works in progress.”
This isn’t the first time the artist has displayed her work at Back Lot. In fact, this will be McCown’s fourth show, despite only moving to Brenham approximately two months ago.
A graduate of Washington University with a bachelor of fine arts degree, she showcased her embroidered photos in April of 2015 in a series titled “Things Unseen.”
In March of 2016, Back Lot hosted “Follow a Line of Thought,” featuring mono prints, stitched photos and mixed media art.
In September of 2017, “Intensities” adorned the walls of Back Lot Gallery, with stitched photography, sculptures and an introduction of McCown’s hand-lettering — one medium that takes the spotlight in her fourth show here.
The show, which officially opening on Friday, actually marks a period of introduction and transition for the local gallery, which will cease its rotation of visiting artists for a year, granting McCown the status of artist in residence.
“There’s a nervous excitement,” she said. “I’ve never had this much space to work in. So I’m very excited and I’m brimming with ideas.
“At my very first show I had nine pieces and I was experimenting with techniques. I’ve had to evolve because of the time-intensive nature of (the medium). I’ve been experimenting over the last couple of years with new materials. And then I’ve introduced my hand lettering into my work here and this space being as large as it is has really pushed me and allowed me to experiment with curation, showcasing entire bodies of work and having a lot of practice with expanding ideas and working with multiple mediums.”
Not only will the space allow her to explore her art, it is also a space to reintroduce herself to creativity as a means of recovery.
“I’ve had a lot of mental health issues that I really hadn’t been able to create much in the last two years,” McCown said. “Finally, I’m getting to a point in that process of healing where there is energy to create again, so that’s also a big motivation behind the work that I will be making — getting back to creativity feeding me versus feeling like ti’s just draining me and taking from me.
Art gives you the chance to be vulnerable. It’s also really scary to do that, so I’m figuring out how to use my art as a way to heal and as a way to be appropriately vulnerable. I’m really looking forward to sharing that as well and really continuing the healing process. I think that part of myself has been closed, but year, it’s starting to come alive. Yeah, it’s awesome.”
McCown said she’s eager to explore related themes on recovery, featuring her poetry and writing — a tangible expression of her ability to connect with her creative energy.
“It’s really a focus on recovery and what recovery means,” she said. “A lot of artists and writers are doing really cool things being vulnerable in the area (of mental health). It’s so relatable. In terms of my own inspiration of the moment, it’s exploring what my own core values are, identifying what those things are that truly make me me and then how I can connect back to all of those things.
“So those are the core elements of myself and are most likely going to make their way into a lot of my work — the idea of acceptance that grief and joy can occupy the same space.”
The public is invited to join McCown at a reception on Nov. 16 at Back Lot Gallery, 308 S. Park St., to celebrate the opening of the open studio show, MoonShadow Press Exhibit. There will be snacks and refreshments.