Fran Ward recently talked with Barbara Hennig-Loomis, guest curator for Charles A. Taylor Arts Center’s July art exhibition “Carpe Noctem,” a Latin phrase for “seize the night.”
TW: Good morning, Barbara. Before talking about the exhibition, would you please tell the readers something about yourself?
BL: Good morning. I’m a working artist, teacher, a wife, very definitely a mother, and a connector of dots.
TW: You’ll have to explain that one!
BL: I am one of those people who has the ability to sense patterns and connections from a distance. That predictive ability looks like magic to some people. The fun is in trying to connect the dots and share the connection with people and expand the web of allies who can then see the connection.
TW: That is quite a talent. We’ll talk about that more later, I’m sure. Where are you from?
BL: I was born in Germany to a German father and American mother and spent most of my life in twenty-three locations in Western Europe and across the U.S. until settling in Chesapeake.
TW: Where did you study?
BL: My formal education includes a B.F.A. in art history and graduate studies in the same as a Fulbright Fellow in Germany.
TW: When did you become an artist?
BL: After a twenty-year hiatus, I began painting and exhibiting again when some of my portraits were accepted and received recognition.
TW: I’ve seen some of the portraits on your website. They are exquisite!
BL: Thank you. I’ve exhibited fairly regularly on a local and regional basis. Now I “keep company with the subjects of portraits” in my home studio.
TW: “Keep company?”
BL: When I am working on someone’s portrait, I have more than 100 images of that person and objects that are (or were) important to that person. They are all around me as if the person is there.
TW: I see. On another topic, Wikipedia translates “carpe diem” as seize the day; take advantage of the opportunities arising in the day.” Tell us about “Carpe Noctem,” a Latin phrase for “seize the night,” the exhibition that you just curated.
BL: One way I connected the dots is in curating this show. In this day and age, light is seemingly inescapable. This exhibition explores the many facets of darkness, from the depths of the soul, to the mystical realms that open when night falls. From the earliest cave paintings until about 150 years ago, art was done in the dark. The dark was light enough, and color and form merged seamlessly with the night from which it emerged.
TW: What kind of artworks did you expect to have submitted for entry in this invitational show?
BL: We expected to see many lovers—strangers in the night—but we did not receive any at all. People brought surprises to the show. There is dark humor, for example. The exhibition is dedicated to representations of the night: the intimacy of candlelight, the magic of a moonlit landscape, or a glimpse at the musings that nightfall breeds. Some of the categories include sleep and/or dream visions; the solitary or lonely; nights of love or death; the macabre, fantastic or miraculous; and songs of the night however they manifest: serenades, nocturnes, and aubades. We hope to evoke emotion with this exhibit as we explore the dark side and seize the night.
TW: Barbara, who thought up the theme and the title?
BL: I did. Color forces us to see. Light makes us look more closely.
TW: The postcard reads, “Night and darkness, death and nightlife, nocturnal light as well as the black depths of horror and humor are all represented in this exhibition. Join us in peering into the shadows, where things are a little more difficult to see.”
BL: Yes. It is an opportunity to expand one’s vision.
TW: Barbara, what is your first memory?
BL: That’s easy for me. Jumping off sand dunes at Lake Michigan when I was two. We were visiting grandparents in Wisconsin, and jumping off the dunes, I was flying. I thought how wonderful that was! I fly like I am swimming—doing the breast stroke. Parasailing over the Alps, I had the same feeling.
TW: And you are still flying. You take great leaps of faith with your art and your ideas. My last question is what would you like TW readers to know?
BL: Get out there! Don’t live in a bubble! Just open your eyes and really see things. There’s so much out there to see. I tell everyone, “Look! See that!” Do your part for art! Make your work, and make your work count. And I want to encourage everyone to see the show.
TW: I’ll be there. I hope many readers of Tidewater Women will also seize the opportunity to see “Carpe Noctem.” Thank you for your words of wisdom.
For more information about Carpe Noctem: Seize the Night, visit www.hamptonarts.net.
Fran Ward is a freelance writer and arts advocate.