The Fabric Workshop and Museum (FWM) presents Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck: A Hatchet to Kill Old Ugly, an installation inspired by Shaker spirit drawings and magic, that opens on Thursday, October 2, 2014 with a public reception from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. The exhibition, divided into three parts, derives its title from a Shaker name for the Devil—“Old Ugly”—seen in Spirit Drawings, which the Shakers created to describe symbols seen in visions. The first section of the exhibition, in the front windows of The New Temporary Contemporary at 1222 Arch Street, displays arcane tools used to observe the mysteries of nature for viewers on the street. The main gallery houses what, at first, appears to be a faithful reproduction of a Shaker domestic interior, but is in reality a set for an illusionist performance. Lastly, the back room in the gallery is full of baroque color and light along with strangely magical elements, contrasting the front space’s proto-modernist Shaker austerity. Feasley and Swenbeck propose how science, asceticism, and magic are all possible methods of exploring our world, in an exhibition detailing the artists’ fascination with an invisible world that is all around us.
The first two weekends in December, A Hatchet to Kill Old Ugly, a collaborative installation, features interdisciplinary artist Martha McDonald who will perform traditional Shaker songs. Martha McDonald’s work features handcrafted costumes and objects that are activated through gestures of making and unmaking, singing and autobiographical narrative. Her practice focuses on site-specific interventions in historic house museums, libraries and gardens where she develops performative responses to each site’s history and its collection. McDonald (b. 1964, Pittsburg, PA) graduated with a BA in English from Pennsylvania State University and an MFA by Research at Monash University through a Monash Research Graduate Scholarship. Her work has been produced at Brotfabrik, Berlin; the Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, Melbourne, Australia; The Joyce SoHo, New York; and in Philadelphia at the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Painted Bride Art Center, the Prince Music Theater, and the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival. McDonald has participated in numerous artist residencies, including those at Monash University; The MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, NH; and the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia. She lives and works in Philadelphia.
About the Artists
Joy Feasley (b. 1966 in Buffalo, NY), a visual artist, studied painting at Massachusetts College of Art, Boston; The Cooper Union, New York; and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her paintings are often of intimate scale, and feature vibrant colors and otherworldly landscapes. Feasley’s work has been exhibited at Locks Gallery, Philadelphia (2011, 2009, 2008, 2007); LUMP Gallery, Raleigh, North Carolina (2010, 2003); the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2007, 1999); Vox Populi, Philadelphia (2002, 2000); and at venues in Tokyo, Japan (2004); Waltham, Massachusetts (2003); and Brooklyn, New York (2001). She is the recipient of a Pew Fellowship (2011) and two Leeway Foundation Window of Opportunity grants (2003, 2001). She is represented by Locks Gallery, and lives and works in Philadelphia.
Paul Swenbeck (b. 1967 in Salem, Massachusetts) developed a fascination with the macabre and occult at an early age, which has filtered into his idiosyncratic sculptures, paintings, photographs, and installations. He graduated with a degree in ceramics from Massachusetts College of Art in 1991. Swenbeck’s work has been included in exhibitions at Adams and Ollman (2013), in Portland, Oregon; Fleisher Ollman Gallery (2011, 2010, 2009), the Institute of Contemporary Art (2009, 2004), Vox Populi (2009), and Morris Gallery at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (2005), in Philadelphia; and at Walker Art Center (2009), in Minneapolis. Swenbeck is a recipient of the 2013 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and is represented by Fleisher Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia. He lives and works in Philadelphia.