Shelters, Monuments: Works by Whiting Tennis and Sarah Norsworthy

Curated by Sam King
January 7 - 28, 2019

The Provincial is delighted to present: Shelters, Monuments: Works by Whiting Tennis and Sarah Norsworthy. This exhibition has been organized and curated by Sam King, who was a Visiting Artist at The Provincial in 2017. We are honored to collaborate with Sam once again with this thoughtful, energetic show of 25 works on paper by two artists that currently live and work in Seattle, Washington.

The show is open January 7-29, please make an appointment to view in person by calling Melanie Parke at 231-633-8772. The accompanying exhibition essay is written by Sam King:
Solitude, thoroughly countenanced, is vast, intimate, intricate, intimidating. In the work of Sarah Norsworthy and of Whiting Tennis, solitude is attended by a tangible sense of the precarious. 

Tennis and Norsworthy are each drawn to things that are aged, worn, ad hoc, used-but-reusable. They are painters who collage and assemble, who tend in their work to roam beyond painting, beyond even the territory of the two-dimensional, but also for whom the act of drawing remains constant and essential. 

Whiting Tennis’s drawings can conjure sentient, if not quite human, presences, set alone in a landscape or a less identifiable expanse. On the occasion of the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum’s 2014 exhibition of his work, curator Ian Berry praised Tennis’s “ability to turn just a few simple lines into something [for which] we feel emotion.” His drawings, paintings, and sculptures beckon, wordlessly, maybe from a thrifted frame or a plinth made out of scrap wood, as if the oppressive slickness of a modernist’s endeavor could be traded in for a place outside of town and a land line. 

Many of Sarah Norsworthy’s recent drawings and paintings present a single figure, often an artist at work in a copse of trees. Enveloped at once by nature and by her work, this figure faces away from the viewer. We might be friends looking on, or intruding strangers. It’s hard to know. Norsworthy’s vantage shifts frequently, from home to studio, inside to outside, the neighborhood to the woods, day to night, street to sea. The artifacts issuing are ragged, permeable, and bonded by the insistence of her hand. Her thoughts may enter these works in what she calls “word towers,” stacked and threaded together in apparent free association. She told me her intent is “to create interiors out of exteriors,” and it struck me that the inverse might be equally true, too. 

Whiting Tennis and Sarah Norsworthy make spaces, and presences within those spaces, that are intriguingly palpable, if perhaps ultimately unknowable. Utilitarian instinct can make short work of differentiating the crude from the elegant, the grand from the modest, or what’s coming from what’s going. Most people, most times, are quite content to yield to this instinct—so it’s a special feat, I think, to confound it. The urge toward expedience is not merely a question of pace. It’s also what frequencies we hear; what sensations we crave; what values we measure. 

—Sam King