BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
An artist’s life demands passion and persistence, and in Vadis Turner’s spectacular Siren Swing, sweat and tears have literally been sealed into acrylic for what will be one of the most eye-catching pieces at EXPO Chicago.
A mixed media artist, Vadis combines ribbons, quilts, bits of clothing, charred branches, waxed paper, and other domestic textiles into statements on womanhood. She gave her friends a vial for collecting the swing’s liquids and often speaks to rites of passage in women’s lives in other creative and powerful ways.
Her works, seen at Geary Contemporary of New York, will be a striking part of Exposure at EXPO Chicago September 14-17 at Navy Pier, Booth 853. Curated by Justine Ludwig, Director of Exhibitions and Senior Curator at Dallas Contemporary, Exposure is a show within a show, open to galleries eight years and younger. EXPO presents 135 international galleries from 25 countries and 59 cities.
Gallery Director and Vadis’s New York dealer, Dolly Bross Geary, who grew up in Chicago, selected her for this solo presentation.
“Vadis is an incredible artist: creative, vibrant, articulate, and focused. Her work is often a nod to second-wave feminist artists making it relevant to conversations occurring today.
“She grew up in Nashville, moved to Brooklyn, and now has returned to her home town, where she recently had a masterful show called “Tempest” at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, her first solo museum exhibition.
“She also recently was awarded the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation painters and sculptors grant.”
Vadis told us about her works for EXPO:
“What I have selected reflects interviews I conducted with female elders from my community. The women I talked with helped me to reimagine what an heirloom is or can be. The works in EXPO embody the many wisdoms I gathered about different types of heirlooms that are passed down from one generation of women to the next.
“I loved learning about traditional and unconventional rites of passage for women, and how they change from one generation to the next. After the elder interviews, I became a better listener but cannot claim to be a spokesperson. Mostly, I am an observant witness and active participant in transitions and issues that are specific to women.
“I have been realizing that how we spend out our time defines much of our identity. So many women I know and/or I have interviewed have rituals and activities that are not embraced by younger generations, such as raising competition flowers.
“Also, many women have a pull towards the earth in various ways, while the rest of us are on Instagram. It is just very interesting how we evolve—and what we deem pleasurable and important.”
In addition to Vadis and other artists from across the county, Dolly frequently shows emerging and mid-career artists from Chicago and across the Midwest in her New York gallery, including Christopher Kuhn, Suzette Bross, Andy Hall, Ceyda Aykan, Leslie Baum, Alexander Herzog,and Federico Cattaneo.
“I feel that artists in Chicago are underappreciated and are often the most creative around. Their studios are often larger, allowing more experimentation, and the city’s collector base is more vibrant. I am always particularly glad when I can show the works of a graduate of the School of the Art Institute.”
While centered in Chicago, EXPO is truly a worldwide phenomenon. “EXPO attracts so many knowledgeable curators and collectors, it really speaks to the history of this international fair,” adds Dolly.
The exhibition’s history is something that she first recalls at age 11.
“My mother, Louise Smith Bross, directed the Richard L. Feigen Gallery in Chicago, along with her business partner, Moira Dubrul. Feigen exhibited at the fair, which was then called Art Chicago.
“While her first love was Old Master paintings (it was in that field that she would go on to get a PhD and teach), she started to appreciate contemporary art after spending a week at Art Chicago. I remember walking around the booths with her and looking at art from all around the world.
“She always liked to buy a piece of art at the end of the fair, and one time she came home with a large charcoal on brown paper of an elephant by Nicola Hicks, for which my father had to remove a bookcase.
“I also remember rolling posters for a James Rosenquist opening at the Feigen gallery and going to the gallery after school. I have always loved art and, of course, had no choice growing up in a family where I would be surrounded by grown-ups talking about art in depth almost all the time!”
It was her husband-to-be Jack Geary of New York who reintroduced her to contemporary art.
“When I took Jack for a visit to the Art Institute, I took the path up the stairs my parents always followed into the Old Masters section. He turned left, and I told him that’s not what we do. But he insisted we visit the contemporary art, and I was impressed.
“We started thinking about opening a gallery in 2012 when we were passionate about the work of a Turkish-American artist who had a gallery in Istanbul but no New York venue. At first, we thought we would just have a few pop-up exhibitions. We have now had our gallery on Varick Street in Manhattan for almost five years.”
Vadis regards the opportunity to be shown at EXPO as a great gift:
“I am thrilled to be part of the conversation and visual experience of EXPO Chicago. It excites me to learn how my work relates to other artists. We are all responding to and expounding from cultural stimuli. We are all from different cultures with different interests and concerns, but we are part of the same time. That goes for the curators and the collectors as well.
“I plan to go with an open mind and open eyes, finding connections and learning from new perspectives.”
EXPO Chicago is open Thursday, September 14 through Saturday, September 16 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., and on Sunday, September 17 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. at Navy Pier.