Language is whatever we make of it. Norman printmaker and visual storyteller Ginna Dowling understands and celebrates that fact with Inherent Language of Life, a solo exhibition that asked the community to develop its own language through instinctual symbols and debuts with an opening reception from 6 to 10 p.m. on Friday, February 10 at MAINSITE Contemporary Art, 122 E. Main.
Dowling’s work focuses on the use of symbols, visual references and layers that convey a literal or symbolic story within a body of visual art. She floats and stacks transparent mediums, layers of form, color, light, shadows and reflections on walls, windows, floors and paper. For Dowling, the transmission of meaning is enhanced with each shadow; depth created and adding context and content not otherwise obtainable in traditional storytelling.
Dowling, boasting an MFA in printmaking from the University of Oklahoma, has fostered a lifelong love affair with art through constant exposure through her family.
“My influences begin with a long list of artists in my family,” Dowling said. “I am the fifth woman artist within three consecutive generations. I grew up in a family where brushes soaking in water, the smell of damp clay, playing in a studio and the sound of music being played was as common as sitting down to a bowl of cereal.”
It’s that sort of love of family and heritage that took Dowling to an artist residency in Ireland during the summer of 2015 with the goal of immersing herself into the tradition of Irish storytelling and incorporating that into her visual storytelling voice.
Those explorations provided the basis for this current body of work that looks both back and forward, first in More Than Gaelic: A Printmaker’s Guide to Her Heritage — an installation printed from carved “glyphic” symbols” influenced by Irish Neolithic sites — and Inherent Language of Life: Identity and Community, which takes the use of glyphic symbols and representations as a means of telling the stories about the identities of the people within Dowling’s modern day community.
The latter was made possible by gathering 85 participants from all walks of life — ranging in age, gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic factors and artistic experience — tasked with developing a language that represented their community through hand tearing paper.
“Tearing paper actually leveled the artist playground for all participants and instilled a naïve, spontaneous expression of the creative self,” Dowling said. “Whether the participant was an adult or child, an artist or novice, all the glyphs were amazingly cohesive and fit together in a unique relationship that only comes from having both similar and different individuals functioning together within an interconnected community.”
Inherent Language of Life opens Friday, February 10 as a part of the 2nd Friday Norman Art Walk, a free celebration of art, creativity and community in Downtown Norman and runs through Friday, March 10.
Edmond artist Ben Stookey will also displaying works in MAINSITE’s Library Gallery space.