Kim Abeles: “,terəˈf3:mə” at Orange Coast College

Kim Abeles: “ˌterəˈf3:mə.” Orange Coast College. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

Finding Our Collective Ground with Kim Abeles: “ˌterəˈf3:mə” at Orange Coast College


Closing Reception December 2nd 1-3pm

Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, 92626

By Evan Senn


The ground we stand on gives us comfort and support, but it is only through how we perceive it to be so strong that it is able to give us peace of mind. We trust that it is there, underneath our every step forward and backward; in most cases, we do not have to question it or wonder if it can hold us up and let us be ourselves. Kim Abeles’ latest solo exhibition at Orange Coast College Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavillion, “ˌterəˈf3:mə,” explores the strength that can be found inside ourselves; through time and space, joining women together through shared experiences and realizations. “ˌterəˈf3:mə” offers viewers a beautiful and insightful glance into loss and longing, solidarity, inquiry, trauma and celebration—all of which contracts and expands inside our experience as women. Abeles has an uncanny ability to dissect and examine the beautiful moments of pain and of the loving existence we share on this plain.

Overwhelming and complex, the accumulation of artworks Abeles has been working on for years culminates into one massive visual expression that sits and acts as if an emotional apparition in the Main Gallery of the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion. Each and every project is so full of complex emotion and a web of information, viewing any one of these pieces evokes a sense of tremendous weight on the heart. Thoughtful and reflective, Abeles has sat with her frustrations, her pain, her compassion and her complex fascinations for long enough to create innovation. Utilizing jaw-dropping installations, collaborative projects and mesmerizing objects, Abeles probes at society, at the ways in which we live, love and treat others.

Her poignant artworks live as poetry in this space. Pregnant with possibilities and seemingly unending memories, her work is special and each piece shouts at the viewer with intention and soft adoration. These pieces pulsate with life; each one seemingly traumatized by some action or brief and inquisitive moment in Abeles’ mind.

Tiny maps sprouting tall, reaching metal trees poetically whisper to one another across the walls. Stories of our land moving and changing delicately enter our periphery as we examine the beautiful relics of the trees in Southern California. Abeles shows us what we need to see while evoking our wonder and love of aesthetics.

The pain and suffering of 800 survivors of domestic violence hold hands with us as we are allowed to learn their stories of survival and love. They are bound to one another by their shared experiences and through those intimate stories, we are able to join them, tied together with silk ribbon, string, and our own handmade pearls of womanhood. Their bravery is forever embodied in their pearl-like objects. Their strength and pain and compassion has been immortalized with the help of Abeles and her compassionate artistic vision. They have created something beautiful out of something awful, and Abeles has gently adorned these precious pearls with shimmer and space; she has sat them on velvet pillows and let them live and breathe on their own, giving some space for the creators of these pearls to breathe a little deeper.

Abeles’ created floating nursery in Sweet Dreams evokes a sense of longing and distortion, reminding us that nature is running out. Our future generations will be observing nature in unnatural ways, and our culturalization of the natural world is not helping. Her interest in research and history is beautifully represented with selections from her Biographical Portraits series with Rosa Parks, Calamity Jane, Mother Ann and Jeanne d’Arc. The multifaceted objects and relics she highlights in these portraits are expressive and still intimate. She finds visual language and symbolism to tell the stories while representing an emotional side of the person and the icon she is exploring. The many layers of image idealism and historical fetishization of icons in history is a fascinating and odd tendency in our culture, and reminds viewers to check for clarity and manipulation by others.

Her Smog Collectors series is a realization in our societal demise, showing us what we eat, sleep in, breathe and make—pollution. A powerful symbol for many things, the pollution Abeles shows us is in everything we do and consume. She provokes thoughtful inquiries with her work—is this our legacy? Is this what we will leave behind in fossils and terrible footprints on this planet—Pollution? We know it is poisoning us as we live here, and yet we keep creating this terrible smog. Her She Said I Found This Sparrow and Thought of You I Said is an evocative sculpture that feels like the perfect representation of life and death in this society. We are all tiny and delicate creatures who flock together, whose mortality may come as a surprise, but this world continues to push our physical potentials to their breaking points, leaving behind beautiful and poetic relics of life and love.

Kim Abeles: “ˌterəˈf3:mə.” Orange Coast College. Photo Credit Kristine Schomaker

The work in “ˌterəˈf3:mə” is powerful and emotionally charged. It is political and well-researched, full of information and sensitivity. The exhibition design by curator Kim Garrison and Abeles is absolutely perfect. It eases you into the powerful data-based works before slamming on the accelerator and pushing into the beauty of the breakdown, and the shared experiences of being a woman, and in being in a place like this. Her artistic process feels satisfying and thorough—her use of non-traditional materials and creative strategies is impressive and awe-inspiring. Each project is significant to Abeles and becomes significant to the viewers through her extreme care and creativity. In this day and age, many of us struggle to put our overwhelming feelings and thoughts into a constructive and meaningful expression, but this exhibition reminds us that we can and that we should; it reminds us that we create our own support to stand on, together.

“ˌterəˈf3:mə” is on view through December 8, 2017 at the Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion at Orange Coast College, 2701 Fairview Rd., Costa Mesa, 92626.

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