“I wanted to do something different than teaching and making art,” reflects mixed-media artist Linda Hall, about an important crossroads in her career. “I found out that Wakulla Springs was hiring an AmeriCorps member to drive boats and take care of the ecology of the parkland. That is what put me in the center of the natural world, and it was a huge influence on my love and my concern for nature.”
Hall drove boats down the river for two years. She witnessed animals shedding winter coats, building nests and mothering offspring. This intimacy with the cyclical nature of the environment and coastal wildlife left a lasting mark, both on her mindset towards ecological preservation and her art.
Her exhibition “Beyond Gone,” at the Gadsden Arts Center & Museum explores this close relationship, and humanity’s impact on the environment as well.
“I’ve been distressed about the political situation and this is a way of letting go of despair and moving past it,” says Hall. “We have to cherish what we have and love it because it is leaving. It’s a make believe world that is intentionally false with big flowers and colors. It is kind of like creating a hopeful world that doesn’t exist.”
Hall sees many similarities between her work in the Munroe Family Community Gallery, on display through Feb. 29, and the feminine, natural, unusual and beautiful pieces Alexa Kleinbard renders in 2D in her concurrent exhibition, “Twilight in the Garden.” “Beyond Gone” involves a variety of pieces from Hall, including many works from her animal series. Made with recycled, handmade textiles, Hall says the original impetus for her large-scale animal forms and masks came about after her mother’s death.
Hall was compelled to make exultant, empty forms and embellish them with glitter, beads and embroidery. These forms then transform into “containers of spirit.” Rather than constructing realistic taxidermies, she felt these empty suits and headdresses should stay open and fluid. Hall has held parades where people have donned papier-mâché masks and outfits, but the focus is always on a more symbolic body.
“It is like a spirit could come into them and they could leave,” describes Hall. “It is what is left behind after someone leaves. To me, they are evidence that there was a life that was there, which is why some of them are laughing, some of them have their mouths open or are covered in glitter, but it is about the absence of what was inside.”
While she has an affinity for raccoons and dearly loves her cat, Hall says the bear is an animal that continues to return as a source of inspiration. Hall is fascinated by how it mysteriously emerges from the woods, and how its imposing form and stance on its hind legs inspires awe.
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