Arch Enemy Arts presents “From Within Ourselves We See,” a dynamic twenty-four-piece joint feature by Michelle Avery Konczyk and Rebecca Reeves that is in fact years in the making. As soon as Reeves and Konczyk met, they knew they wanted to do a show together, and AEA is honored they approached them with the concept. Reeves says, “Throughout the creating process, [Konczyk and I] would Zoom and text frequently. We had our own individual list of pieces and took into consideration how they would complement one another…Our two styles just seemed to naturally flow together…[and] the ideas just kept pouring out.” That spirit of inspiration and experimentation is palpable in the work.
Moreover, both artists draw upon deeply personal narratives, adding an emotional depth to the dark yet elegant imagery they share. Reeves employs a “cocooning technique,” where she wraps thread and beading to represent the suffocating feeling of losing a loved one, a feeling the artist knows all too well. In “Circle of Sorrow,” Reeves draws inspiration from “a memorial wreath for a dearly departed” as well as Victorian mourning objects that “preserve the memory and stories of [her] deceased loved ones.”
Michelle Avery Konczyk too uses her work as a meditation on herself and her own experiences. In “What I Keep In Tiny Boxes,” Konczyk melds beautifully rendered watercolors into a sculptural box (or frame) that includes a piece of her own poetry, something that took quite a bit of courage for her to include. Konczyk explains, “As a child I would write songs and stories and draft full-length plays…Its weird loving something so much [just to have] someone who means a whole lot to you tear you apart to the point you don’t do it anymore.” With this in mind, the piece becomes a visual rendering of how Konczyk compartmentalized these different parts of herself, hiding them away until now that she’s found the strength to celebrate them.
Finally, we cannot talk about this show without talking about the materials Reeves and Konczyk employ. Just as these artists imbue their own personal histories into their work, the materials they use carry personal histories of their own. Not fifty years ago, beading, thread, and watercolor would have been relegated as “lower,” “craft,” and “female.” But Konczyk and Reeves seem emboldened by these histories, just as they seem emboldened by the challenging parts of their past. They use beading, string, and watercolor almost in defiant celebration of themselves and their femininity, their experiences and their hardships. They tell us that it is only “from within ourselves” that we may truly see.