Curator Jennifer McGregor in conversation with the artists
Artists Kate Colyer, Lorrie Fredette, and Megan Porpeglia talk with curator Jennifer McGregor about their framework to create whispered conversations, on view at Stand4 Gallery and Community Space in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The collective was active during COVID via Zoom reading about the natural world. They created bundles in response to their individual trips in 2021. These were shared through the mail to instigate a series of new artworks. Jennifer McGregor was brought in as curator to help shape the exhibition.
Jennifer McGregor: The evocative exhibition whispered conversations is your collective’s first physical project. The Boundary Walkers trajectory offers a model to other creatives who want to invigorate their practices. Let’s start at the beginning: how did the collective come together?
Kate Collyer: Unbeknownst to us, we were all pseudo connected through the SUNY New Paltz art program. Back in 2016 or 2017, Lorrie and I got together to share readings and casually go to exhibitions to enjoy each other’s life interests. At one point we wanted to dive into a project and Lorrie proposed bringing in a third person to form out the collective and we thought of Megan.
Megan Porpeglia: Lorrie met me for coffee in New York. You mentioned the readings you and Kate were doing and the idea of a collective project. Because of my budding interest in nature writing, I was excited to introduce a parallel interest in landscape and nature into my painting and drawing practice. It was intriguing to start by reading as a group which was new for me. After we spent the weekend reading, we were all hooked on the process of reading and talking.
Lorrie Fredette: Yes, on Labor Day weekend in 2020, we went to Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts in Ithaca, NY. As an Alum, I was offered a weekend residency during COVID when it shut down. Kate had turned us on to Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia, by Martin Shaw which we read over the long weekend.
Kate: Reading the entirety of Scatterlings is probably the fastest I’ve ever read a book in my life. We spent hours separately reading. In the afternoon, we convened at lunch to discuss what we read. We would break and read some more. In the evenings, we would debrief and collect. That started us on the path towards poetic nature writing while also tying in historical facts and information about landscapes and how walking connects all those pieces together.
Jennifer: I can see how shared reading helps to dig deeper and pick up more from each other’s observations. It can make a bigger impact when you read collectively than reading on your own. The next book was Underland by Robert Macfarlane. In each chapter he takes the reader to an exceptional underground world. What were some takeaways from his writing that you applied to the whispered conversations project?
Kate: All three of us are also bound to the scientific and the historical. After reading Martin Shaw, which was very spiritual and almost mystical, we wanted to explore more research based, analytical observations and readings. Robert Macfarlane writing is poetic and observational, but also connects beauty, history with mythology and science. The book was the catapult to move us forward. It started to tie us to the ideas of all of that happening while walking.
Lorrie: Macfarlane is grounded in all the things that are deeply important to us as artists and as people. He’s talking about living nature and the Anthropocene, things we are trying to address in our individual and collective lives. Walking is central to his practice, particularly accompanied by someone who knows the land that they are walking on. I could visualize our collective as though we were individually walking, yet all walking together. With the time we had spent zooming almost every month, we had set a path for ourselves.
Kate: The linchpin for whispered conversations is that we wanted to take each other to these places that we were in and that the others were not experiencing physically. So, the bundles and the subsequent work for viewers is meant to act like Macfarlane’s writings in the sense that these places can be experienced and resonate through the work we produced.
Jennifer: In 2021, you had individual trips planned where you could use the processes of observation, collection, and reflection as you explored. Megan went on a one-month residency in Sardinia, Kate visited Alaska and Lorrie went to Cape Cod.
Megan: I found the page of notes from the meeting before we traveled on May 16, 2021. The words mining, stashing, gathering, investigating came up. This was the glimmer of the bundle concept that eventually formed how we collected our observations.
Kate: We didn’t want to hinder or pigeonhole anybody’s way of viewing. The ways that we looked at landscape or experienced wilderness or the outdoors in general were different, and that difference was important. We agreed to share our experience through tangible objects. We were purposeful about keeping each other out of our collecting processes so that we could have a pure observational experience when we received each other’s bundles.
Lorrie: Aside from knowing where each person was going, we didn’t talk about our experiences during or when we returned. The bundles are individual interpretations of our journeys.
Jennifer: When the bundles were complete, you sent them one at a time, as a round robin to each other. You agreed not to discuss until all had been received. What was it like to open them?
Kate: It was painful the first time because we needed to wait until the next person saw and everybody had experienced all the bundles which took several weeks.
Lorrie: Spending time with them, packing it up, sending it to the next person, that, without talking with Kate and Megan as a group, honestly, was the hardest part of the project. I received Kate’s bundle first and kept thinking about it as a gift.
Kate: For me it was most exciting to receive the second bundle. Having all three in my sights I saw all our unintentional commonalities, whether it be through color palette or the physical objects or the way that Lorrie’s bundle and Megan’s bundle unraveled. For the first time it really solidified for me that this is why we were a collective. We all are very different, but our commonalities are so tightly interwoven that even when we are purposefully not communicating, we’re still communicating.
Jennifer: After exchanging all the bundles, you began new work in response over the next three months. Kate and Megan each created two pieces about each bundle and Lorrie’s work responded to the collective. The strength of the collective and your process is on view in whispered conversations through the 22 pieces that are in dialogue.
As you reflect on the work you’ve done, what will you build into your individual and collective practices. How will you continue as three women walking? How are you thinking about the next project?
Lorrie: For me, it’s easier to make and think about work because Kate and Megan are in my life, and I see them as part of my studio practice. They’re friends, colleagues, collaborators that I can reach out to. Our dialogue is foundational at this point.
Megan: And at the same time, we couldn’t have gotten here without spending many years as individual, thinker artists.
Kate: Although we walk individual paths our meandering allows us to walk parallel and close enough to each other to recognize that we are walking in a similar direction. In terms of the next project, we’ll wait until the show comes down in January because we don’t know what whispered conversations is going to offer up. In any case, we will start with our literary research and our observations and that something will develop organically and naturally through our discussion.
Megan: In a future project it’s important that we are in live time responding and reacting to one another’s making.
Kate: One thing that I would really love to have happen is a residency or other configuration, where we physically walk together—three women walking together.
Whispered conversations: beholding a landscape through journey and reflection November 11, 2022 – January 14, 2023 Stand4 Gallery and Community Center, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
Kate Collyer is an artist, printmaker, and educator in the Hudson Valley of New York. She is the founder of Wilsome Studio. She received her MFA from SUNY New Paltz and is presently researching as a PhD candidate at the Burren College of Art, in Ireland. Her work has been exhibited internationally, notably in consecutive SMTG Krakow Printmaking Triennials in Poland. @kdcollyer
Lorrie Fredette is an artist and walker of local roads and trails in the Hudson Valley of New York where her studio and home are based. She developed Spaces for Thinking, a blog that pursues wonder through observations and notations. Recent shows include the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Jacksonville, FL; with an upcoming exhibit at University of Northern Florida, Jacksonville, FL. @lorriefredette
Megan Porpeglia is a New York based artist who makes paintings and drawings that engage the particularities of objects in her daily surroundings. Megan received her MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY in 2017. She has attended residencies in New York, Calabria, Italy, and most recently Sardinia. Megan has shown her work internationally and nationally while also hosting shows in her Brooklyn apartment. @meganporpeglia
Curator and arts planner Jennifer McGregor brings expertise in ecological art, curating/programing, and public art planning to artist-centered work. She works with community-based collaborators to develop strategies that engage non-traditional public spaces, diverse audiences, and dynamic artists. @jennifer_jo_mcgregor