Political Ecology major Ryn McCall ’21 is a poet and mixed media visual artist who spent their spring 2020 Co-op at the Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary and Farm located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of northern Virginia. As the COVID-19 disruptions and shutdowns intensified, Ryn was relegated to more isolated work on the farm or inside the farmhouse.
“Often because of long and rigorous days of manual labor, I found a new solace in being indoors and alone in the evenings,” explains Ryn. “There was spotty cell connection, so my time was truly my own to take advantage of as I saw fit, and as someone who doesn’t do well sitting still, I wasted no time in using my private moments for creation.”
Ryn spent the remainder of their time on Co-op immersed in artistic practice. The experience of seclusion provided an opportunity for Ryn to focus inward and thereby connect with themselves on a deeper philosophical level. Ryn’s work from this time is active on the Yellow Springs Arts Council Virtual Show: The Emerging Artist Showcase as well as on Ryn’s own website and their Instagram (@penne.western), where people can interact with them and their work more intimately than on the website. The show runs through October 23 and is intended to “support new voices in their creative endeavors and give them increased exposure through an exhibition highlighting their art.”
“The main piece that was created while at Spikenard, Oscillation, is a 11.5-foot by 4.5-foot abstract tapestry,” Ryn says. “It was born out of a desire to unwind and experience the process of making more so than the product, and ultimately inspired a piece in my show entitled Scroll. Both pieces empower me as the artist to be keenly aware of the minutia that surrounds me while I’m creating. Detailed logs of space, direction, mood, time, and astral placement are kept for both of these pieces that allow a deeper understanding of what was existing in and around me at the time these pieces were coming together. When you look at the pieces, you can clearly see the differentiation from day to day and space to space, and I am enamored by this clear and evident impact of exterior influence on my work.”
Ryn continues, “Through these pieces, I was able to tap into a new way of understanding myself as an artist. I was able to ask questions of myself that were otherwise inaccessible. These pieces set the stage for me to interact with my identity as a maker more intentionally and with more focus, which led to the creation of my multimedia sculptures, The Comfort of Chaos I and II, as well as Reflections of Home. During my time at Spikenard, I also began my ongoing project Hands On which is meant to capture the practice of being present through tangible understanding. In an ever-emerging world of the digital and ephemeral, these photos pause, serving as a reminder of touch and connection between ourselves and the world around us.”
Truth Garrett ’20 wrote about the showcase for the Yellow Springs News. Of Ryn’s work, Truth says: “With this exhibit, McCall ventures into 3D and sculpturally based themes to explore ways to use whimsy and tactile objects to pursue meaning-making and a sense of comfort in a rapidly changing world of isolation.”
Ryn sees their work in the context of activism, but seeks a subtle angle in contrast to the current politically and socially charged environment. “While activist work often points outward to atrocities and inequity, my work is more of a tender suggestion of introspection, a space for the viewer to question their access, their privilege, their lived experience, and bring it forward to meet the common realities we all observe; regardless of if we personally experience them,” they explain. “I think this work is equally as important in a world that can be so callous.
“Connection is crucial, and identifying where we each exist in the grand parade of life is paramount. My ultimate goal with all of my work is to facilitate a welcoming environment for participants to engage with deep and complex ideas around identity and circumstance, and I feel this collection I created for the Emerging Artist Showcase is steeped in this ideological goal.”
The show can be viewed on the Community Access Yellow Springs YouTube Channel (scroll down to view below).