The Headlands Center for the Arts Fall Open House

Shotgun Review

The Headlands Center for the Arts Fall Open House

By Shotgun Reviews October 31, 2017

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Lorraine Lupo reviews Fall Open House at Headlands Center for the Arts.

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Anxiety was in the air at Headlands Center for the ArtsFall Open House, a day of open studios for the artist residency program. With the fires up north still uncontained and fresh onslaughts from Washington every day, isn’t that what we’ve all been feeling?

Constance Hockaday’s work explores our relationship with disaster preparedness. Viewers were invited into a life raft-cum-tent lined with sheepskins—an experience both comforting and unnerving. (Gosh, should I have one of these?) 

Another life raft at Headlands: Escape Raft (2017), a video by Angela Willetts. In it, she assembles a wooden hut-like enclosure, accompanied by a voiceover taken from a 1970 U.S. military handbook, “FM 21-76 Survival.” Deadpan, she reads instructions on how to avoid anxiety, depression, boredom, and loneliness while she struggles to keep the craft from collapsing.

Willetts then floats on the raft, using a series of colored clothing items to send signals according to the 1969 International Code of Signals (the translation of which appears as text on the screen). Taken from the manual, the phrase “I am drifting” says many things at once; wearing white, with a red garment pulled across her body, Willetts signals to a rescuer, a loved one, the indifferent world.

Stacey Goodman. Passage, 2017; digital video; 13:56. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: Stacey Goodman.

The expression of fear in Stacey Goodman’s video, Passage (2017), has a deceptive simplicity. A serene field overlooking the Pacific Ocean is dotted with replicas of Goodman, all of them trying to sleep. Tossing and turning, each in turn starts awake and clutches at a pillow in fear. In this piece, layers of suggestion hover with the subtlety of fog cover. There is beauty here, and an absurd pathos. The forms of Goodman’s anxiety are manifold, from the very personal (a man seized again and again by his own particular demons), to the national (“How will we survive the next four years?”), to the global dread we feel as we encroach on the natural world. Goodman is African-American, and I also read his piece in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. The arresting scene he portrays speaks to how a lack of safety can infiltrate consciousness, even in the “safest” places: in nature, in bed.

We’re all looking at the same world, but what we see is different; we describe its problems in different ways, as do the three Headlands artists here. Hockaday, Willetts, and Goodman use the material of shared experience to create a new one of beauty, humor, and surprise—a welcome reprieve from the everyday anxiety that seems to plague us all.

Headlands Center for the Arts will hold its next Open House in Spring 2018. I plan on visiting again to see what these artists, and others, are up to next.

[Editor's Note: The author of this article is a donating member to Headlands Center for the Arts.]

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Lorraine Lupo is a poet living in Oakland. She is the author of By Way Of (Green Zone). Her writing has appeared in New England Review, Fourteen Hills, and Art Book Review, among others. She also edits the Periodic Postcard series.

The Fall Open House took place at Headlands Center for the Arts in Marin, CA on October 15, 2017.

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