Curated by Seattle-based artist Leah Nguyen, Conscious Collaboration with Spirit at SOIL unites artists from around the country whose art practice involves a "collaboration with spirit," as they call it. "Artists have long worked with the spiritual realm," writes Nguyen. "Some collaborate unknowingly and some consciously. Inspiration is the most common mode of collaboration—opening yourself to what 'wants' to be made."
Nguyen tells me that for this show, she wanted to create a space where artists could be vocal about their work's relationship to their spirituality without judgment or skepticism.
There is no shared way that any of the seven artists access their spiritual selves or other spiritual beings. When starting a painting, Nguyen asks her "spiritual collaborators" a series of complex yes/no questions using a matrix in order to guide her. Los Angeles–based painter Jean Nagai gets into meditative, half-waking states to create his giant, balmy, abstract compositions.
Sara Long sits out in nature for long periods of time, observing plants and stones communicating with each other, which she then records in her drawings and paintings. Both sculptor Emily Counts and painter Elizabeth Traina use inquiry-based processes—Counts with her higher self, and Traina with a spirit collective. While Nicholas Nyland senses when a work has a life of its own, Hayley Barker draws from her time as a witch, using both spells and prayer in her collaboration with spirit.
Each piece in the show shimmers with a type of energy and magnetism that feels like it is beaming in from another dimension. And, despite the difference in medium, they all fit within a similar color palette—light blues, pinks, oranges, and lavenders, the colors of a sunset. I've long been a fan of Nagai's vibrant, emotional naturescapes, which are composed of tiny dots. And Barker's just barely figurative drawings and paintings of reclining nudes, faces, and landscapes are composed with gnarly greens and bright yellows that seem to radiate off the page and directly into your eyeballs.
Although the concept behind the show might sound a bit woo-woo, I think that regardless of your feelings about spirituality, the show invites reflection on your relationship to your own creative and artistic practices. We all have ways of communing with our internal selves and memory in regards to how we create things or approach our work. This group show asks its artists to vocalize and give voice to that source of inspiration, which they do extraordinarily well.