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Meg Roberts Arsenovic: TIDEWATER

  • Quirk Gallery 207 West Broad Street Richmond, VA, 23219 United States (map)

TIDEWATER will be a collection of fiber and mixed media pieces inspired by the effects of the Chesapeake Bay impact crater that shaped the landscape and history of Virginia.

It happened 35 million years ago. A meteor the size of Manhattan sailed west over the Atlantic Ocean, crashing directly into what is now the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The impact, considered one of the most significant in the history of the planet, cracked open the earth's crust, tearing fault lines from Richmond to the continental shelf. A massive wall of water shot 30 miles high, sending waves past Charlottesville, drowning Virginia in ocean water. The collision devastated the entire east coast, engulfing shores from Georgia to New England, sending a tidal wave careening back across the Atlantic Ocean, flooding the western coastlines of Europe and Africa. The remaining crater, as deep as the Grand Canyon, now lies buried at the southern gateway to the Chesapeake Bay, preserved beneath the Tidewater region of Virginia. (taken from the artist's statement)

During her open residency at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Park, Maine, Arsenovic was asked about growing up in Virginia and the history of her home state. This polite and innocuous question impacted the direction and focus of Arsenovic's latest research and sparked new developments in her recent work.

Beginning with the impact event of Eocene Epoch, Arsenovic retraced the history of the region where she grew up, learning for the first time about the very long history of thriving, powerful indigenous populations, along with a new understanding of the consequences of English settlement. She also learned, for the first time, about the massively impactful events in Jamestown exactly 400 years ago. Jamestown in 1619 would see both the introduction of 'representative democracy' and the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English North America. (Their first stop being 'Point Comfort' in the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.) These events in the Tidewater region would be of central significance to establishing both the horrifying legacy of slavery in North America, and the forming of a nation. Reflecting on lessons from history classes, school field trips, and the celebrated past of her hometown region, Arsenovic tried to reconcile the relationship between these tidy, sterilized versions of history with the sheer volume of important truths excluded from the narrative.

For the work presented in TIDEWATER, Arsenovic utilized color palettes and textures inspired by childhood (Disney, The Muppets) to make some of these hidden histories more accessible. The radiating pattern of the meteor strike is superimposed onto contemporary road maps and atlas pages. Nautical knots are replicated from old textbooks or charts belonging to John Smith using brightly colored faux fur. Arsenovic's pieces offer something familiar, recognizable, maybe even comforting---but are they also masking a more complicated version of events?

"My work abstracts this reexamination of a region I've always called 'home,'" Arsenovic writes. "One of the many questions I'm asking is: How well do I really know the places I am most familiar with?"

Meg Roberts Arsenovic is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a BFA in Craft/Material Studies. Her work has been exhibited throughout the country, including solo shows at Quirk Gallery (Richmond, VA) and the Appalachian Center for Craft (Smithville, TN) as well as group shows and traveling exhibitions at The Taubman Museum of Art (Roanoke, VA), Sienna Patti Contemporary (Lenox, MA), and, most recently, Fiberart International 2019 (Pittsburgh, PA; 2nd Place Prize Winner).