Photographic and screen print artworks comprise the exhibit “Whereupon Memory: Carol Chase Bjerke & Sarah O’Farrell” in Gallery II at Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St. Bjerke and O’Farrell revisit their own memories and use imagery to examine the nuances of human communication.

Bjerke is a multimedia visual artist who creates with photography and constructs book art, collages and installation art. In “Whereupon Memory,” she included selections of two- and three-dimensional works derived from photographs reflective of her New England roots and travels in western Ireland; a collection she refers to as “TOUCH/STONES.” The images include cairns, drystone walls, portals, tombs and other ritual sites, along with collections of ordinary pebbles placed in a bowl or jar on a windowsill.

“’TOUCH/STONES’ is about the point of contact. A connection,” Bjerke said in her artist’s statement. “A person picks up a stone and places it on another stone, and there is evidence of their having been at that spot. This emphasis of stone placed on stone, the hands-on act, tactile, is also appropriate to my working methods and presentations.”

Bjerke’s methods include constructing books, boxes and other sculptural items piece-by-piece, then burnishing them for refinement and stability. She does her own photo work by hand in a traditional wet darkroom. By doing so, she is creating her own connection, her own touchstone.

“Even many of the framed pieces evoke a sense of the hand-held object,” Bjerke said.

Among Bjerke’s pieces in “Whereupon Memory” are limnographs and limnoprints. She uses a brush, pen, or sponge and photographic developer to draw on gelatin silver photographic papers exposed to room light to create limnographs.

“There is a delay between the time the developer touches the paper and when the image appears, and each paper surface contributes it own mysterious qualities,” Bjerke explained. “All decisions about the completed drawing must be made before stabilizing it in fixer and performing the subsequent archival processing steps.”

“Limnoprints are line drawings transferred to high-contrast films so they can be reproduced in editions of archival gelatin silver prints,” she continued. “This is a multistep process that can also incorporate text, toning and hand-coloring using Marshall Oil Colors.”

O’Farrell is a printmaker who also creates two-dimensional, sculptural and installation-based art. Her screenprint artwork in “Whereupon Memory” explores how nostalgia heightens one’s attachment to a particular place.

“Nostalgia is a powerful architect of emotion, memory, and the experience of time,” O’Farrell said in her artist’s statement.

O’Farrell uses her own photographs, hand-drawn imagery and nostalgia of Grier School/Allegheny Riding Camp in Tyrone, Penn., where she spent six of her adolescent summers, in her series of screen prints. She found the steps of layering CMYK (four-color printing using cyan, magenta, yellow and key — black) photography and hand-drawn images, in the printmaking process, instrumental in resolving simultaneous feelings of distance and comforting familiarity she felt when revisiting the camp as an adult.

In her statement, she said the process evoked her memory’s “more ephemeral qualities, often substituting transparency for opacity, diffuse contours for hard edges, obscured figures for recognizable beings.”

O’Farrell explained, “This movement between representation and abstraction reflects the retention, revision and subsequent dissolution of memory, as well as its accompanying histories.”

An opening reception for “Whereupon Memory: Carol Chase Bjerke & Sarah O’Farrell” will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 13, in the Promenade Lounge at the Overture Center for the Arts. The reception is free and open to the public.


Robyn Norton is a features assistant for the Wisconsin State Journal.