Linda and Amber Neely, writer and artist, create collaborative experience, on display now at The Center’s Granucci Gallery
Special to Prospector
Since the late 1990s, The Center for the Arts has been an organization that strives to promote and present performing arts in its many forms. Hit hard by the pandemic, the newly remodeled facility was host to just one live performance following an 18-month-multi-million-dollar renovation, before being forced to shut down. Nearly a year later, the nonprofit continues to do what they can, in limited capacity, to fulfill the stated mission to serve as “a cultural and educational organization that promotes and presents the literary, visual and performing arts for the enrichment of our community.”
In promoting visual arts, the Center’s Granucci Gallery has hosted a number of art exhibits in varied mediums. The latest show to open is “The Mother Daughter Project” by Linda and Amber Neely. This mixed medium exhibit pairs the poetry of daughter Amber with a visual interpretation created by mother Linda, who has a master’s degree in fine arts with a focus on surrealism.
KNOW & GO
WHAT: Amber & Linda Neely: The Mother Daughter Project
WHEN: Exhibit on display through March 26
WHERE: The Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main Street Grass Valley, CA
INFO: thecenterforthearts.org or call 530-274-8384 or email email@example.com
The 59-year-old said the project began after she read some of her daughter’s poems and thought it would be cool to do some paintings to go with it.
“She writes the poem. She hands the poem off to me. We don’t discuss it at all, and I just come up with whatever artwork I feel like making,” explained Linda. The result is a series of paintings, watercolors, and drawings of magical worlds and imaginings.
Linda said there may have been a slight misunderstanding between the two when the project got underway. “I just wanted us to do it one time and thought it would be cool. I think Amber thought I was going to illustrate her writing, but I wanted it to be more like I would take her writing and do whatever I do and not consult with each other so it’s ‘surprise, this is what I did.’ She wanted to give me more direction and then it floundered a bit until I just did what I did, and it came out really cool.”
At 34 years old, Amber Neely said she has been writing since she was a young girl and has not shared her poetry with anyone but close friends and family before this experience. According to Amber, her writing covers a variety of topics and doesn’t necessarily follow a theme — but her mother would disagree.
“The thing that I was really intrigued by is when I went to school, I studied a lot about surrealism and to me they (Amber’s poems) are definitely a really good example of surrealism in poetry,” said Linda. “It’s like they kind of make sense but then they kind of take a weird twist and you don’t really know exactly what she is talking about, but it is awesome, and the imagery is incredible.”
Amber said it’s hard to explain how the poetry comes to life.
“I can’t write until I can write and then it is what it is, at that point.”
As someone who studied surrealism, Linda said she uses art “to create places I would like to be and little people as well, kind of like a whole separate reality.” While Amber’s writing stems from the opposite. “It’s more so to try to find a connection to reality when it seems like that is getting a little bit shaky for me. I mean, reality, yuck!” explained Amber, with a laugh.
The pair agree the project had taken a bit of a toll as they had to work to come to some agreement about how the project would take shape. They also decided to switch and had Amber draft a poem to go with one of Linda’s paintings, which is also part of the display.
Amber says that writing has been a constant in her life for as long as she can remember. She began journaling when she was about nine years old and has continued to do so, taking intermissions when things get particularly difficult, particularly easy, or when she feels as though she is being particularly lazy. “I think I began writing as a way of processing unrealized dissociative episodes as a child. Through the process of writing, I was able to remind, or rather, convince myself that I am here. Nowadays, I write when I need to. When everything in me is locked or crumpled up, or disintegrating before my eyes. I write to put words to that which I cannot express in any other way. Often it is inspired by dreams, or some experience that feels too heavy or too magical to leave inside. I believe in writing more than I believe in anything else.”
Linda’s first clear memories of making art happened on brown paper bag book covers in school. Her MFA degree has provided her the good fortune to explore and make art in ways she never would have considered on her own. “If I were to consider my art as a whole, I would say I am interested in creating places, environments of wonder, awe and safety, not necessarily all together. I have several favorite mediums. Often what I’m imagining dictates the medium. I have traveled the world with an openness to awe and wonder, finding it in surprising places. I have also studied surrealism extensively: surrealism in art, writing, film and architecture. When I read Amber’s poetry, I am in awe of the imagery it creates in one’s mind. Her method of writing also intrigues me. I suppose it was inevitable we would work on this project together. I am grateful she agreed.”
This is the first time the two have created a show together which they have been working on since 2019. Their hope is that people will come and take the time to enjoy the works.
“I hope they really, really read it and look at it,” said Linda. “A lot of it is really beautiful and some is super creepy and not really happy and optimistic, but I still hope they read it.
“Poetry can be hard for people. You have to really commit and stand there and stay there and read it and this stuff really deserves that.”
The show opened Feb. 18 and will be in The Granucci Gallery until March 26. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, from noon to 4 p.m. Reservations for private gallery time for up to ten people can be made by emailing Gallery@thecenterforthearts.org or calling the Center at 530-274-8384.
On another topic, artists interested in taking part in the next Open Studios Tour can submit applications now through April 16. Artists in any variety of mediums including sculptors, printmakers, photographers, painters, jewelers, illustrators, woodworkers and designers are encouraged to apply for the event taking place the second and third weekends of October. In keeping with safety protocols, the 26th Annual Open Studios Tour of Nevada County West will be a combination of virtual and in-person tours. Artists can apply online at https://thecenterforthearts.org/open-studios/.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at https://www.buzzsprout.com/1332253. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@ gmail.com.
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