Mercury art works officially debuts at hotel

Mercury art works officially debuts at hotel

By Chris Starrs  |  Correspondent  |  Story updated at 8:21 pm on 10/14/2009
Mercury Art Works’ inaugural exhibit at the hotel, called “Terre Verte,” features works from 17 artists, many of whom have been associated with Mercury since its inception.

Mercury Art Works’ inaugural exhibit at the hotel, called “Terre Verte,” features works from 17 artists, many of whom have been associated with Mercury since its inception.

‘Terre Verte’

Mercury Art Works’ debut exhibit at Hotel Indigo, featuring performances by Canopy Studio, Athens Hoopdance, Denise Posnak Contemporary Dance, Killick and Maps and Transit
When: 8-10 p.m. Friday (opening reception)
Where: Mercury Art Works at Hotel Indigo, 500 College Ave.
Cost: Free
Call:  (706) 338-0548         (706) 338-0548
Other artists include John Ahee, Rinne Allen, Matt Alston, Scott Belville, Chris Bilheimer, John Cleaveland, Mary Engel, Tate Foley, Bob Fernandez, Wendy Hanson, Kristy Knight, Carl Martin, Richard Olsen, Dianne Penny, Margie Spalding, Michael Stipe, Chris Wyrick.

Reflecting the shape-shifting element that shares its name, Mercury Art Works will celebrate its eighth anniversary about a month early with a grand opening reception Friday at its new location in Hotel Indigo.

Sandi Turner, who along with her husband, Chris Wyrick, owns and operates Mercury, says the offer to move their gallery from Chase Park to the new eco-friendly hotel on College Avenue was too good to refuse.

“Last September, we met with the Rialto Property Partners team, and they asked us if we’d be interested in moving to the Hotel Indigo, and it seemed too cool to say no,” Turner says. “We’ve been in the hotel since late August, but we wanted to wait until the hotel itself had its opening before we hosted our grand-opening reception – we didn’t want to get in their way.”

The gallery’s inaugural exhibit at the hotel, called “Terre Verte,” features works from 17 artists, many of whom have been associated with Mercury since its inception. The opening reception, set to begin at 8 p.m., not only showcases the visual arts, but also will feature aerial performances by the repertory company at Canopy Studio (a former Chase Park neighbor of Mercury), a contemporary dance piece by Denise Posnak, a performance by the Athens Hoop Dancers, and musical contributions from guitarist Killick and Maps and Transit.

“In this scenario, ‘Terre Verte’ takes on a double meaning,” Turner says. “Terre verte – which translated means ‘earth green’ – is an earth-based pigment utilized by artists, and it also reflects the environmental sustainability of the hotel.

“We wanted the first show to reflect, metaphorically, the environmental principles the hotel was built with, but it’s also a reference to the way the painters work. The pieces in the show – some of which are abstracts and some traditional landscapes – reflect both of those ideas,” she says.

Terre verte also is captured in the exhibit’s prominent placement of a painting by Richard Olsen (affectionately known as “Ole” by his former students at the University of Georgia). Olsen retired from UGA in 2000.

“The majority of the artists represented in the show studied with Ole,” Turner notes, “and the thing that people point to about his skill as an art professor is his attention to color theory – using terre verte to understand how to mix colors is a major part of his approach, so we wanted the centerpiece of the show to be a work that reflects what the other artists received from him.”

Olsen’s impact on the Athens art community, she adds, is significant. “His students understand how to mix paint well, how to use color and what light does against color. A big part of that lesson starts with earth green. It is a traditionalist approach in many ways, but in my mind at least, dedication to color theory is something that can easily get lost in a painter’s studies. To me, Ole’s students are distinguished by their depth of understanding color, and it is one of the core reasons they consistently produce such high-quality art work.”

Turner says the hotel architect, Jeremy Moffett, specifically created spaces appropriate for art. In addition to “niches” for art, outside near the entrance, a glass cube greets people as they pull into the hotel.

“Right now, we’re showing a life-size palladium-leaf buffalo by Michael Stipe,” Turner notes (palladium is a metallic substance that’s leafed on to the surface). Stipe may be better known for his musical artistry, but he started out in art school at UGA. He designed the work and had it fabricated.

Turner says she was attracted to the piece in part because “it depicts something iconic and symbolic in terms of what it means to be American. To me, one of the issues the buffalo makes me think about is how we’ve been treating our environment. In a show that’s supposed to be about reflections on the environment and the Earth, we felt like this was a really appropriate piece to capture that.”

Turner also is excited about the work by Wendy Hanson, new to Mercury’s roster. Hanson grew up in Athens, and has for several years been working in New York as a fashion designer, and before that worked for Vivienne Westwood in London. The installation at Mercury is a collection of 300 origami butterflies made from fabric scraps from different design houses, including Tibi and Marchesa among others. “We jumped at the chance to show this. It’s just incredible,” Turner says.

For the opening of the gallery, Turner and Wyrick wanted to encompass a broader scope of arts, and added music and dance to the mix.

“We wanted to pull together the full arts community in Athens,” Turner notes. “The crescendo for the evening is the Maps and Transit performance that will bring together sound, visual art and dance,” she adds. The performance will include live painting projections by Wyrick, an artist himself who also has several works on display in the hotel.

Offering a variety of services to its clients, Mercury began life in November 2001 on Clayton Street in downtown Athens (where Toula’s is located now) and remained in that space until January 2006, when Turner and Wyrick moved their base of operations to Chase Park, where they remained until this past summer.

“It’s gorgeous,” Turner says of the gallery’s new home at Hotel Indigo. “There are a lot of windows on two sides, so there’s a ton of natural light. The paintings look spectacular in that natural light. … And everyone involved with the hotel are just phenomenal people. In addition to a wonderful business experience, it’s been a great personal experience.”

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Thursday, October 15, 2009

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