Clew: A Rich and Rewarding Disorientation

Clew: A Rich and Rewarding Disorientation

Deborah Barlow, Todd Hearon, Jung Mi Lee & Jon Sakata
January 20 – April 15, 2017

Reception: Friday, January 20, 5-7 pm
Gallery Talk: Saturday, January 21, 10 am


Clew: The word can mean variously a ball of yarn, part of a ship's sail, and an expanse of wings. The most famous clew in Western culture was the ball of thread given to Theseus by Ariadne, used to guide the hero back through the labyrinth of the Minotaur. Over time clew has come to mean “a fact, circumstance, or principle which, being taken hold of and followed up, leads through a maze, perplexity, difficulty, intricate investigation” (OED). The labyrinth in that famous story is often a metaphor for what is baffling, complex and unfathomable. But a labyrinth can also suggest the mysterious and uncanny. Wandering through a maze—to be in a state of “amazement”—can be a rich and rewarding disorientation. When sailing in uncharted waters, the clew we need is one that brings us into proximity to the unknown and then back out again. Wings open and expand.


Clew: A Rich and Rewarding Disorientation is an artistic collaboration that emulates the labyrinth with its confluences and unexpected turnabouts. Using overlays of music, poetry and visual arts, four artists give viewers and listeners new ways to see, hear and navigate a tripartite, intricately layered world. Within the setting of a physical gallery space, all three formats intermingle freely, and scheduled events shift the central focus from poetry to sound to the visual. Experienced individually or collectively, Clew compounds and expands into a journey of multidimensionality and surprise.


Clew is a true collaboration of artists and creative disciplines. For months, Deborah Barlow, Todd Hearon, Jung Mi Lee and Jon Sakata have worked with the Lamont Gallery to create this unique sensory experience.


Deborah Barlow, Maragalle, Clew, Lamont Gallery

Deborah Barlow, Maragalle, Mixed media on wood

Deborah Barlow's nonrepresentational paintings have extremely rich and evocative surfaces that combine a variety of pigments, metallic powders, and in some cases thick, almost three-dimensional materials. Barlow creates these complex and multi-layered surfaces to suggest different “states of matter, from microscopic forms and terrestrial landscapes to the hyper spectral imaging of space.” In her artist statement she says:

"So much lies outside the container of human perception. I am interested in quietly defying the held images of our world by creating paintings that are “map-visions” of other places, processes and phenomena. When successful, they touch into an uncanny sense of recognition and wonder."

Barlow lives in Boston, Massachusetts. She had her first exhibit in Manhattan in the early 1970s and has gone on to have over 50 solo exhibits in commercial galleries, universities and museums in North America and Europe. Most recently she was featured in major exhibitions at the Woodbury Museum and the Morris Graves Museum of Art. Her work is included in museum, corporate, and private collections.


Deborah Barlow, Nadiki 3, Mixed media on wood

Todd Hearon, No Other Gods, Clew Lamont GalleryBarlow’s painting Nigralle happens to be the cover illustration of Todd Hearon’s latest collection of poems No Other Gods. Hearon, an English instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy, is the author of two collections of poems and has also published a number of plays, articles, and essays.

For Clew, Hearon has chosen an excerpt of a poem “…that concerns migration and diaspora over vast periods of time in the Swift River valley region of Western Massachusetts, home now of the Quabbin Reservoir, source of water for greater Boston, but the location of many other “inhabitants,” both human and non-human, stretching back to a glacier’s passing.  I thought that the poem’s subject—the winding and wending of water; its convoluted and shape shifting qualities—well suited the theme and central image of Clew: the labyrinth.”


Visitors to Clew will be able to read Hearon’s poem and also experience elements of the text woven into a multi-sensory sound scape. This component, created by Jon Sakata, involves transformations of Hearon reading from his poem. Hearon’s voice takes on new qualities and forces.


In addition to the rich textures of Barlow’s paintings and audio created by Sakata and Hearon’s combined poetry and sound work, the Lamont Gallery has also been transformed by a site-specific installation. Visitors to Clew will encounter reflective surfaces, thin material draped from the ceiling, video projections, and special lighting that have been created by Sakata and Jung Mi Lee.

Jon Sakata and Jung Mi Lee, Clew, Lamont Gallery,

Lee and Sakata are both concert pianist and transdisciplinary artists who have performed internationally. Since 2009 they have been collaborating with architects in Europe and the United States exploring the intersections between music and architecture. They have also taught on the music faculty at Phillips Exeter Academy for nearly 20 years.

Speaking of this installation and his time collaborating with Barlow, Hearon and Lee, Sakata calls the experience immensely rich and challenging. He notes:

“Like many other transdisciplinary projects we have been involved with, the terrain of our held notions of what constitutes music, sound, time, affect, sensation, discipline, has likewise been profoundly destabilized, de-territorialized, mutated.  Art as a practice of alterity: to introduce the alien into ourselves and to be inexorably changed by it. A labyrinthine project for sure, at times with and at others without, the helpful thread. Or is it that there are so many threads that we cannot help but also sew our share of non-sonic responses to the array of "erratics" and installed pieces that make up CLEW?”


Photos of the exhibition and our events from can be seen on our Flickr page.


Lamont Gallery programs are supported in part by the Michael C. Rockefeller ’56 Visiting Artists Fund.


Lamont Gallery, Frederick R. Mayer Art Center, Phillips Exeter Academy
20 Main Street, Exeter NH, 03833
603-777-3461 /