MCLA Gallery 51 to Present 'Split Level' Exhibition


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - Beginning on Thursday, July 31, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' (MCLA) Gallery 51 will present a solo exhibition by Julia Morgan-Leamon. In "Split/Level," she will utilize found and altered objects, assemblage, paint, sculpture and video to explore the rifts, connections and resonances that have punctuated her own life and those around her.

An opening reception for "Split/Level" will take place in MCLA Gallery 51 on July 31, 6-9 p.m., as part of this month's DownStreet Art Thursday event. The event is free and open to the public. 

According to Morgan-Leamon, who is the manager of MCLA Gallery 51, the show aims to evoke places and spaces that she has personally experienced, and investigates what it means to be neither here nor there, neither upstairs nor down, but poised in-between.   

Morgan-Leamon explained, "The experience of walking into a split-level home is disconcerting in that you have not yet arrived; you still are forced to make a decision: do I go up or down? Entering my childhood home was always like that. The upstairs seemed inviting; it was where the nice furnishings and my parents' bedroom were, not to mention food and the warm kitchen. Downstairs was dark, not at all inviting, yet that was the kids' domain."

Such memories of her childhood were triggered when, in 2013, she had to console a young woman who had just lost her mother to an accident in Egypt. Empathizing with her companion caused Morgan-Leamon to relive the tragic death of her own mother in 1989, irrevocably tied to a very different setting-that split level house. 

While little seems to link a suburban house in America and a road through the Egyptian desert, the artist explains the common ground.  "Loss is loss. We all experience it," Morgan-Leamon said.  

To lay bare this shared terrain, the exhibition is built around two personal narratives of loss and a feather-light poem that connects them. "Split Level" thus refers to a particular architectural innovation of the early 1970s, but it also points to the metaphorical spaces between you and me, here and there, now and then, she said.

In the show, two sites are yoked to evoke this idea - Morgan-Leamon's past and Egypt's present.  The connecting tissue is the artist's memories, as she has been leading trips to Egypt since 2011, and collaborated extensively with artists in that setting.

"This show is a very big package in a small space," said its curator, Holly Edward. "It links the local and the global, the personal and the collective. Visitors will be challenged to look, feel and think about what it means to live in the Berkshires and also experience the wider world.  The good news is that they can follow in Julia's footsteps."

An artist and media producer based in Williamstown, Mass., Morgan-Leamon works primarily in painting and time-based media, but often the concept of the work requires an interdisciplinary approach.

Her works have been screened and exhibited at venues such as the Ministry of Culture, Cairo, Egypt, the Luxor International Painting Exhibition, Transartfest Berlin, Germany, the Brattleboro Museum of Art, the New York Studio Gallery, the Los Angeles Center for Digital Media, as well as the Contemporary Artists Center and at Kidspace at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams.

In 2009, she attended the Luxor International Painting residency at the invitation of Egypt's Ministry of Culture. She developed a course that takes Williams College students to Egypt to study art and culture with Egyptian students, and has been leading trips there since 2011.

Morgan-Leamon made a series of paintings and shot street video in Cairo during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Stills from her film, "Gestures of Time," were published in "Infinite Instances," edited by Olga Ast and published by Mark Batty Publisher. She holds an MFA from Vermont College.

She recently brought Egyptian artist Alaa Awad to exhibit at MCLA Gallery 51 and to create a mural for the town of North Adams.

"Split/Level" will run in MCLA Gallery 51 from July 31 through - Aug. 24. MCLA  Gallery 51 is a program of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center. The Gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. MCLA Gallery 51, 51 Main St. N. Adams.

For more information, (413) 664 8718, or go to Gallery51.