HRAC presents ‘Domestic Jungles’ lecture

The Hammond Regional Arts Center’s exhibit “Domestic Jungles” featured artists Mikey Walsh, left, and Otto Ochs, right, who talk before presenting their works.
Annie Goodman/The Lion's Roar

The Hammond Regional Arts Center is presenting their exhibition “Domestic Jungles” through Friday. Katherine Marquette, Executive Director of HRAC, created the theme for the show inspired by the tame wilderness that surrounds us every day and featured artists Otto Ochs, Mia Kaplan and Mikey Walsh. This exhibition is part of their Let’s Talk Art lecture series where the artists are able to come and tell their stories.

Ochs talked about how his inspiration for woodcarving began at an early age.

“When I was a young boy living in a refugee camp, life was rough, and it was beautiful,” said Ochs. “There was a carpenter who had a makeshift carpentry shop in the back of the camps. When life was tough or I felt troubled or whatever, I’m not even sure anymore, I leaned to the edge of the door. The light was coming through a small window. It kind of lit up his tall gaunt figure as he was planing wood, and I could see the wood flaking off and the chips flying and the light hitting the wood and he just quietly looked at me and didn’t say anything. He would plane the wood and do his work very quietly. I felt really at peace.”

 

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Ochs further explained how this experience has affected his work.

“I don’t remember if I was there 10 minutes, five minutes, an hour, but he never said leave,” said Ochs. “That was a nice place to understand a person planing, working with wood, trying to make a table, or whatever he was doing, out of wood. Ultimately, out of what? The roots in the ground and the trunk and the branches? My work is supposed to echo primal solace. The peace in our hectic day-to-day world.”

Walsh explained the primate themes behind her work.

“I have two young kids, and when my daughter was a baby, I was at the zoo, and I saw a primate,” said Walsh. “She was nursing her baby, and here I was with my baby, and I just had this moment. This lightning bolt of ‘That’s the same. That’s me.’ I started doing research on the different hands. The fact that I work with my hands, and I see that as this easy, understandable common thread and the idea of kinship with other creatures.”

Walsh also explained her creative process.

“I like the idea of taking something ephemeral, so this relationship that we have with other creatures, and making it permanent,” said Walsh. “Each image is a word. I can rearrange them and the meaning changes over time. I think that’s true in any creative process. You create something and then you begin to figure it out.”

However, artwork can be challenging at times for artists.

“I haven’t made work in a while,” said Walsh. “You can feel a lot if it’s well done, and I feel like that’s a lot to step into sometimes. When I’ve got a job and kids, I don’t want to be that open. I don’t want to be that vulnerable.”

 

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