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Conversation with artists Fabiola Menchelli and Heather Watkins, and exhibition curator Stephanie Snyder. 

Followed by a public reception at the Cooley Gallery. Free and open to the public.

The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, is proud to present Dark Moves: Fabiola Menchelli & Heather Watkins. This intimate exhibition consists of newly-commissioned work by Mexico City artist Fabiola Menchelli and Northwest artist Heather Watkins. 

Menchelli and Watkins are artists deeply invested in the sensory and perceptual possibilities of light—along with its orbital complements, darkness and shadow. With artistic methodologies drawn from poetry, cosmogony, and scientific experimentation, the artists modulate the luminal in pursuit of unknown outcomes. Resultant forms of disappearance, reversal, and refraction communicate across the entirety of the Cooley—particularly in the center, where a hexagonal room with open ends echoes the internal angles and shadows of Menchelli and Watkins’ work.​​ As viewers move through, and around, the hexagon, their bodies draw the symbol of the lemniscate—the infinity symbol (∞). Dark Moves seeks to emulate the ways that shadow becomes a medium in the artists’ hands—contouring, obscuring, and unfolding their work across the deep, azure walls of the museum. 

Menchelli and Watkins employ color, line, and saturation—dematerializing modernist geometries, and transforming planarity into ascending angles and curves. Their experiments produce enigmatic effects and lacunae—voids and folds that touch and trace one another. In Dark Moves, Menchelli brings new dimensionality to her translucent color photograms, made entirely in the dark—folding and manipulating the photosensitive paper. These alchemical agents become embodied sculptures mounted on a stainless steel substructure that thrust their geometric volumes, casting shadows on the wall. In the darkened surroundings of the space, Watkins transforms the dynamic linearity of her ink-based drawings into rising, swooping organic forms that radiate wild shadows. These sculptural forms accompany numinous gold reliefs created by imperceptible forces, and small works on paper that oscillate between a fluid lyricism and darker visions of interior compression.

Over the last two years, the artists and the curator have engaged in an extensive collaborative process, working between Portland and Mexico City. This ongoing conversation has shaped every aspect of the exhibition and its extended programing, including the forthcoming catalog by Mexico City designer Priscila Vanneuville.

In Dark Moves, seeing is not believing. Here, to “see” is to search for ways of knowing that may only be accessed through shadow, the subconscious, and the ancient iconographies of pleasure and pain at the heart of the visual imagination. 

Heather Watkins holds an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and a dual BA in English & World Literature and Classical Studies, from Pitzer College (Claremont, CA). She has received numerous grants from organizations including: the Oregon Arts Commission; the Ford Family Foundation; and the Regional Arts & Culture Council (Portland, OR); and has been awarded residencies at Caldera (Sisters, OR); the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology (Otis, OR); Stelo Arts (Portland, OR); and Township10 (Marshall, NC). Watkins has exhibited her work at institutions including: the Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR); The Art Gym at Marylhurst University (Marylhurst, OR); the lumber room (Portland, OR); Oregon Contemporary (Portland, OR); Planthouse (New York, NY); CANADA (New York, NY); and PDX CONTEMPORARY ART (Portland, OR). Her work is included in the collections of the Portland Art Museum (Portland, OR); the Miller Meigs Collection (Portland, OR); Reed College (Portland, OR); Portland State University; and the Artist’s Book Collection of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), as well as numerous library collections. Heather Watkins is represented by PDX CONTEMPORARY ART in Portland, OR.

Fabiola Menchelli received an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 2013. Her most recent exhibitions include, I carry all the names I'm given, Arróniz Arte Contemporáneo (CDMX, 2022), Parallax, ProxyCo Gallery (New York, 2021), Under the Blue Sun, Marshall Contemporary (Los Angeles, 2021). She has been invited to artistic residencies such as Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (Skowhegan, ME), Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts (Omaha, NE), Casa Wabi (Puerto Escondido, Mexico), Casa Nano (Tokyo, Japan) and Unlisted Projects (Austin, TX). Menchelli has been honored with the National System of Art Creators FONCA grant (2019-2022), the XVI Photography Biennial Acquisition Award from Centro de la Imagen (2014), the Fulbright-García Robles Scholarship (2011-2013), FONCA-CONACYT for studies abroad (2011-2013), and the Massart Dean's Award (2012-2013). Her most recent book titled Desdoble, by Fabiola Menchelli & Andrea Chapela, ESPAC México (2022), was translated to English by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College. Her work has been included in  Pictures, ed. Ken Miller, There. Editions, USA (2022), and in publications such as Aperture, OSMOS, Terremoto, L'Officiel, and Glasstire. Menchelli has taught in numerous private and public institutions including Reed College between 2018-2019. Her work is represented by ProxyCo Gallery in New York, Marshall Contemporary in L.A. and Arroniz Gallery in México City. She currently lives and works in México City.


Image credit: Fabiola Menchelli, Where the light enters, it leaves, 2023 & Heather Watkins, Hidden Span IV, 2023

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