Breath & Language

July 3 to Sept 5, 2009


Valhall Arts present “Breath and Language”, a new exhibit featuring works by two artists, Jennie Kiessling Michler, and Camellia Samir El-Antably.  The two bodies of work, both contemplative, stunning pieces, communicate with each other in a synergistic way to create an environment of  calming restfulness, a thoughtful respite.  The artists both work within the grid, and although the scale is different between the two artists, the pieces balance each other, and a rhythm is created between them.

Kiessling Michler’s current works are made “in human scale, so the viewer can engage with the work, face to face, literally. While the viewer breathes, they are exchanging energy with my work, which consists of my breathing. The works aim is to be reciprocal,” she states. Kiessling Michler uses some materials that come from her surrounding land, all have a relationship with the breath.

El-Antably’s pieces, smaller in scale, are bits of folded paper, with symbols from ancient and extinct languages printed on them.  Her works, both intricate and simple at the same time, are like precious little doodles or old scraps of notes, and they have an enjoyable aesthetic in the rhythmic simplicity. 

The two artists collaborated on a piece, directly onto the walls at Valhall Arts. click the video above. 

The artists will discuss their works on August 15,  at 2:00 p.m.; exhibition runs through September 4, 2009.  Gallery hours:  Tuesdays, 11:30-1:00; and Thursdays,  4:00-7:00 p.m.

Breath and Language Curators Statement

     “Breath and Language” is the visual expression of “two energies that fuel the power of universal existence: breathing and communication”. The two artists, Jennie Kiessling Michler and Camellia Samir El-Antably, have a common vision through their thoughtful choice of media, and the ritualized way in which they create their works. 

     Camellia’s work with the grid grew out of a way to keep her “mind quiet, hands busy and mouth closed, while listening.” Camellia’s interests include a wide variety of art forms, from book arts and printmaking, to letterpress, lace making and needle arts. Her works include symbols, letters from non-Latin alphabets, often abandoned or used only ceremonially, as well as her own original forms inspired from the historic shapes. She is fascinated by the variety of lines and marks used in alphabets and by the minds that developed them. By recreating these symbols, she seeks a connection with the cultural mind represented by that writing system. Her frequent use of Arabic letters, sometimes modified, allows her to spiritually touch the historic communities of her Egyptian ancestors.

     Jennie’s use of the grid is the “aesthetic manifestation of breathing”, her materials those of the earth which surrounds us, and her process a ritualization of the daily rhythms of human existence. Her process,  which is coming from a “non-western” viewpoint, focuses on spiritual energies, and sacred rituals, transcending the body by engaging the life energy of the breath through her creation. Jennie’s works are to be “touched, smelled, viewed closely, enjoyed and pondered. They are made with the intention of holding a form of medicine for their viewers….They are specific and universal.”   The materials include cowrie shells, soil, blood, and kaolin as  symbols of death, and seedpods for life; all these contribute to the universal quality of the work.

     As a photographer, I documented the process of the creation of the two wall works on which Camellia and Jennie collaborated. Watching them work together, I witnessed each challenge the other to expand their ideas, to go beyond the comfortable routines of their individual praxis, to find something wonderful in expanding their thoughts, growing.  The combined ideas and communication created a synergistic energy.  Camellia gave a gift of Egyptian soil to Jennie, which she added to the work, and through their discussions, the inspired decision to  include lace as a symbol of the colonization and forced structure that comes with settlements, was hatched.

     Their communication and collaboration contributed to the final look and feel of the exhibition, each adding their own touches, in separate ways, but by working together they create a common ground that is alive with both energies intermingled. The works embody daily routines, the ticks of a clock, the beat of the heart, the days of the week, the waking/sleeping and breathing patterns of human existence.  The pattern of the grid represents these rhythms, the materials supporting it, residues of humanity, mixed together, and for this moment, the viewer, the artists and the work, all meet in one place for an experience. The works’ power is felt when the viewer enters with an open mind, present as a blank slate, and in this way, we all come together in this space, at this moment, exchanging particular and universal ideas and thoughts. 

     ~Laura Brent, Director


Camellia S. El-Antably and Jennie Kiessling

See the collaborative installation on YouTube, part 1 and part 2.

Odd Letters, Camellia S. El-Antably

Skin, Jennie Kiessling

All Images Copyright of the Artist

Valhall Arts is a registered Trademark