Reception for Dublin artist’s exhibit at Dub Hub Friday

  • “The Eiselen Commission” by April Claggett Courtesy photo

  • ‘No Fences’ by April Claggett. Courtesy photo

  • 'Source' by April Claggett. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/15/2021 3:23:34 PM

Take a trip to South Africa through the eyes of Dublin artist April Claggett this month through her exhibit at the Dublin Community Center. 

Claggett spent about seven months in the region during 2018-19 while on sabbatical with her husband Rhine Singleton; what resulted is a collection of work she titled “Entanglements.”

“A lot of the ones I’m showing were done there, and some were done in response to being there,” Claggett said.

She said they chose South Africa because of its ties to where the human race evolved from and where life really began.

“I didn’t know how much we’d love it there, but I fell in love the minute we stepped foot,” Claggett said.

She knew embarking on the trip meant that it would turn into a series of paintings. With a biology background, Claggett first set out to embrace the relationships between the people and animals of the region.

“When I go somewhere I connect with the ecology – it’s my first way of connecting with a place,” she said.

There’s a backstory to each work, “based on quite an adventure,” Claggett said. She said the residue from the political history of apartheid “is everywhere you go” and she tried to integrate that conflicting, disconnecting narrative into her art.

“Trying to put that all together into one space is really what these paintings are all about,” she said.

There’s also an aspect of healing that happened during the development of her work.

“The painting was a way to work through what I had experienced,” Claggett said.

She saw how the native South Africans lived off the land surrounded by natural beauty and the animals who also call the area home. She also witnessed how the people were forced to live separated from those beautiful creatures they felt so deeply connected to.

“They are still so symbolic to them and part of their heart and soul,” Claggett said. It’s why she chose to include both animals and people in her paintings. “They are an attempt in my mind to put things back together again.”

The series includes six large paintings, although only one, “The Eiselen Commission” is featured in the show. It is more than just a painting of a young child hunched down flanked by four flamingos, as it includes embedded text from The Eiselen Commission, a governmental taskforce charged with figuring out segregated education during apartheid. In Claggett’s description of the piece she said “I was struck by how the slick bureaucratic language seemed so rational and reasonable, yet had such damaging consequences.” The text is obscured by the paint, only adding to its power.

“I think of painting as sort of a language,” she said. “Because color can tell a story, composition can tell a story and I needed to complicate what was happening. The words I read just floored me. They were so damaging and lasting. It’s easy to make something beautiful, but that’s not really the message.”

“The Eiselen Commission” is supported by a number of smaller works that capture her time spent in South Africa, connecting with all the elements around her, most notably the people and animals she observed.

It wasn’t easy to start though, but Claggett leaned on the words of Wendell Berry, a Kentucky farmer, poet and writer that has held a special meaning to her – “You take two things that ought to be together and you put them together. Two things! Not all things.” And that’s exactly what Claggett looked to accomplish in “Entanglements.”

The show is on display during the month of September, during Dublin Community Center open hours, Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon. On Friday, Sept. 17, from 5 to 7 p.m., there will be a reception for the show where Claggett will also speak about her work.

The DubHub requests that all visitors wear face masks while viewing the show. Refreshments will be served outdoors.


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