Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Linda Matney Gallery’s Current Exhibition Focuses on Struggles of Emerging From a Pandemic

John Lee Matney’s photograph of Jeremy Ayers started the idea for the Linda Matney Gallery’s current exhibition. (Courtesy of John Lee Matney)

WILLIAMSBURG — The Linda Matney Gallery has opened its latest exhibition, which focuses on the human psyche associated with the struggles of emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Linda Matney Gallery, located at 5435 Richmond Rd in Williamsburg, develops thematic group shows and collaborative art projects with local artists as well as artists from all over.

The gallery’s current exhibition, titled “The Task That Is The Toil,” features numerous artists prominent in Georgia, Virginia, New York, California, Brazil and France, including Art and Margo Rosenbaum, who were key artists from the Athens, Ga. arts and music scene of the 1970s and 1980s.

Gallery owner and curator John Lee Matney, who was also involved in the Athens scene, photographed Jeremy Ayers, a prominent Southern songwriter and artist.

Right at the beginning of the pandemic, one of Matney’s photographs of Ayers was featured in Grace Elizabeth Hale’s book, “Cool Town: How Athens, Georgia, Launched Alternative Music and Changed American Culture.”

The image was shot in 1994, but following the U.S. Capitol attack on January 6, Matney made a new version of the image to express his interpretation of the event.

Ayers, who Matney described as a mysterious figure out of Athens interested in helping people realize their dreams, was interested in Shamanism and surrealism, which intersected with Matney’s interest in Jungian psychology.

“Ayers was very into the Jungian psychology,” Matney said. “I thought about this idea that is ‘The Task That is the Toil,’ which is based on the quote by Virgil that is in Carl Jung’s works.”

The Virgil quote, “Easy is the descent to Avernus; But to retrace your steps and come out to the air above, that is the task, that is the toil,” hit home for Matney during the pandemic and the Capitol riot.

“I said ‘what if we did a show that was kind of about the dream state, about kind of emerging from the pandemic, and the struggles that come out of that?’ Matney said.

Matney considers the exhibition diverse, as it features both artists from Athens and notable locals, including Christopher Newport University (CNU) professor Ryan Lytle and artists Jennifer Nagle Myers and Thomas Lowel Edward.

The exhibition also features art work from people in the Athens music scene, such as Karen Allison, artist and digital content assistant for the band Love Tractor and Vanessa Briscoe Hay, the lead singer of the band Pylon.

“It’s exciting to have a group of people in the show that show a kind of friendship,” Matney said. “If you read ‘Cool Town,’ you see that kind of energy, that friendship, that creative process.”

Matney said that Williamsburg locals can experience new aspects of art.

“They can enjoy art beyond just beyond looking at a painting,” he said. “It’s more about participating and seeing elements of a psyche and art history and culture, and they can draw something from that and it can translate into their own experience.”

The exhibition will run through Sunday, Nov. 14.

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