Redux Contemporary Art Center welcomes its new exhibit, Rufous: The Stuff of Life, a collaborative effort between Becca Barnet and Michelle Jewell that captures the essence of both the real and the whimsical that exists in our everyday lives. While Barnet and Jewell each bring their own differing aesthetic and style, there is a strong underlying similarity between the two that has made the exhibit effortlessly merge and come to life.
Barnet is a sassy, confident, and strong individual with an obvious passion and ease of expressing herself, whether surrounded by friends or in her various mediums. While she has been consistently praised and recognized for her work in the realm of taxidermy, her career began at RISD, where she received her BFA in Illustration. Sisal & Tow, her creative company, strives to provide installations of various degrees and artistic forms inside restaurants, museums, businesses, and other commissioned spaces. Becca’s art can be found all across the city of Charleston, including the office space of Benefitfocus, the South Carolina Aquarium, and Leon’s Oyster Shop, to name a few.
On the other end of the spectrum is the petite, reserved, and contemplative Michelle Jewell, whose work resides in the realm of childhood. After quitting her day job in 2010, Jewell began Finkelstein’s Center, which has since expanded to include several other talented individuals in order to meet demand. Named after her dog, Bernard Pickles Finkelstein, the creative company sews together solemn plushies that range from pigs wearing glasses to foxes dressed like humans, whose blank expressions make them comforting in the most unobtrusive way.
When the two were given the opportunity to present an exhibit together this spring, they admit there wasn’t really any set rules or direction. Instead, they found that their ideas seemed to complement each other’s from the beginning. As one of them worked on one piece, it sparked interest for another, and the collection manifested organically from there. As two artists who deal primarily with commissioned work, this was a major opportunity to be able to create something completely new, shaped by their own interests. So letting their ideas bounce off each other turned out to be the best method, allowing plenty of room for experimentation and freedom.
Inside the space, you’ll be faced with the juxtaposition of real and fake, human and animal, with fish flopping on carpets and vintage picture frames beside grassy moss. The placement of stuffed animals made out of actual skin and soft fabric is almost humorous in a way. Instead of entering into a space that feels stuffy with high regard, like many art galleries, you’re left with a feeling of amusement. After all, you can’t take a school of flying fish dressed in sweaters too seriously. The admiration truly lies in Becca and Michelle’s craftsmanship, each piece of art handmade and refined in a way that elevates it beyond its existence as simply a toy or a mounted animal.
The opening reception will be held today, Thursday, February 12, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., with a chance to hear the artists talk about their inspiration and work behind the exhibit. It will remain on view until March 28, 2015.