From Astronauts to Eyeballs: The Pawtucket Arts Collaborative helps solve the equation “Identity Equals Emotion Plus Time” with six amazing artists

On January 11, 2020, the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative (PAC) was filled with spectators eager to get a look at the new show “Identity Equals Emotions Plus Time.” Curated and headlined by Jeremy Schilling, six artists presented their work exposing philosophical theories about the human experience. At the opening, the large, comfortable mill space was abuzz with conversation and all the displaying artists were on hand to explain how the theme of the show rippled through the realities each of them created.

Artist Jeremy Schilling exemplifies the concepts in the show’s title with his astronaut series The Overview Effect. His study of the human psyche examines feelings of homesickness, acceptance of change and the solitude of exploration. His lifelike and exquisitely detailed creations — whether by oil paint, pen and ink, or mixed media — are meant to spark emotion. To achieve this, Schilling depicts many of his astronauts without their helmets: insulated from their colorful and often fantastic surroundings by their suits, yet exposed from the neck up, letting you see the subject’s face and expression. The approach allows onlookers to connect with, even empathize with, the subjects. 

A particularly interesting collection is by Joe Bradford, who presented his work publicly for the first time at this show (he also provided ambiance for the event through his guitar and DJing skills). Bradford’s pieces focus on digital artifacts — documents that have been uploaded to the internet and forgotten. These artifacts are combined or obscured in different ways with the intention of “exploring memory, meaning and the consequences of digital nativism,” according to Bradford. This is best revealed in Bradford’s series “Time Like Water, is a Solvent,” which shows the decay of a house in reverse, exposing themes of recollection, memory and what we may be losing with time. 

This is also artist’s Kim Gammell’s first gallery show and her work does not fall short of stunning. Not only are her pieces anatomically educational, but the use of ink, pencil and watercolor work together to make a not so alluring topic ironically beautiful. Stripping the flesh from a portrait, the bare bones are left for Gammell to present to viewers in an accurate and visually interesting way. In addition, Gammell displays her skills in embroidery and ink with muted and dark colors, which are not only esthetically pleasing, but full of story. 

In contrast, the bold and colorful geometrics of Jon-Michael Baribault’s acrylic paintings feel as though they are popping into the concrete world. A creator of dreamscapes, Baribault blurs the line between conscious and subconscious through surrealism. Many of his works are larger scale and full of what look like human eyeballs, which is important to Baribault’s theme of how the world observes itself in the age of convergence of the artificial with reality.

Also displaying their work is a duo of artists who joined forces from across the country to create brilliant photographs. Alena Sison from Massachusetts and Josh Francis from California used Google to collaborate on the series “Haze.” Sison has been on both sides of the camera as a photographer and as a model, which gives her a unique perspective on how to convey the story of “Haze.” The collection explores infatuation, obsession and toxic intimacy, and the decision to stay in turmoil or leave it. Sison expands on this idea saying, “The meaning can extend to identity and whether to reveal that part of oneself to others or stay hidden.” 

“Identity Equals Emotion Plus Time” will be on display through January 25 at the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative.