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OCAC MFA in Craft IIR STEPHANIE GERVAIS: 'GULALHI' Exhibition @ Cooley Gallery

November 12, 2018

Stephanie Gervais

Stephanie Gervais, Phone and powerbank burnt by the police, 2018. Archival inkjet print on Dibond, 22.5 x 28 in. Courtesy of the artist © S. Gervais 2018

By appointment through January 3, 2019

Artist Talk and Reception
November 20, 6:30 pm 
Reed College Chapel, Eliot Hall, followed by a party at the Cooley. 

The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery; Reed College
3203 SE Woodstock Blvd.

The Cooley Gallery is proud to present GULALHI — the first one-person U.S. exhibition by UK-based artist, OCAC MFA in Craft Instructor–in–Residence, and Reed alumna STEPHANIE GERVAIS. The title of the exhibition is a Pashto nam — meaning flowers — that appears as a tattoo in the artist’s photograph AZIZ, 2018.

Gervais created the works in GULALHI while living outside of the Unites States, from 2010–2018. First residing and making art in the hillside favelas above Rio de Janeiro for four years, Gervais then moved to England to earn her MFA at Goldsmiths University. It was there that she discovered a network of people supporting the rapidly expanding camp of Sudanese, Afghan, and Syrian refugees in Calais, France. 

Aided by her knowledge of French, Gervais began spending long stretches of time in Calais, living in the camp and getting to know the residents. Struck by their self-organization, endurance, and translation of social customs—and invited to share in this aesthetic of hospitality and conviviality—Gervais slowly began recording the residents' stories over tea and meals. The works in GULALHI were created during and after this time, as Gervais’ relationships deepened. Some of the works in the exhibition have continued to evolve in response to Gervais’ lasting friendships with people who left the camp—smuggled into England in trucks, or onto trains departing from Calais. 

Over the last decade, Gervais has developed an aesthetic that privileges presence, openness, and transference, whether through the sound and touch of the body, or the translation of words and gestures through different materials and contexts. The exhibition also includes a small group of experimental sculptures that adorn the body. 

While the works in GULALHI seek to embody, or relate to, the experiences of others, their position is neither documentary nor objective. Gervais believes in the realness of artistic acts to engender communication, understanding, and emotional release, as she creates within and alongside her surroundings. Over time, these encounters are recounted and symbolized through material events—patterns, clothing, and non-sequential photographs that belong together but do not ask to be understood as the material evidence of anything other than the needs and aspirations of people. 

“Aesthetics is a way of communicating—without words—aspects of one’s sublime unconscious with that of others. It is sensing the way others identify and relate to one’s own experience.” *

* Frank J. Ninivaggi M.D., F.A.P.A., “Aesthetics and Envy,” Psychology Today, June 30, 2012.