NORTH ADAMS -- In her local gallery debut, after years of living here, printmaker Valerie Carrigan has proven that she has boundless energy to match her new-found time to create art.
The show, "Liminality," opens at the Press Gallery on Thursday, July 25, at 5 p.m.
The work Carrigan will show spans the past nine years, though a good portion of it is very recent. Carrigan received the 2013 NBCC Individual Artist grant, which allowed her to do some intensive work during a residency at Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence.
Carrigan's work draws heavily from the natural world around her, but in such a way that it becomes linked with what goes on inside any and all of us.
"Nature seems to find its way into everything I make," said Carrigan, "and so often in my work the meaning behind the work somehow melds the human spirit and some element of nature, and finding that intersection point, and how we relate to our environment and the environment in our inner self."
Carrigan says that nature has always been a part of her work and it takes different manifestations. The gallery will feature a series, called "Messenger," about birds that she has encountered over time, providing interaction, sometimes tragic, that functioned as a transformative moment for Carrigan.
"There is one bird that flew into the window of my home, where I lived in Halifax Vt., that I then took to another place for the bird to be taken care of and released," she said. "Those are the types of experiences I had that entered into the artwork.
"The owl that's in the show is an owl that, driving up Route 91, late at night, the owl hit the windshield of the pickup that I was driving, so I put it in my pick-up truck, drove it home where I lived in Vermont and buried it that night."
Carrigan says her artwork records significant moments that had effect on her, and also highlights the connection between her personal experience and the experience of these animals as a way to demonstrate the interconnectedness between human and nature. She thinks this is something anyone can identify with.
"Even though they're my personal experiences, I try to make them universal in the artwork, so people can find their own way to relate to the imagery," said Carrigan.
And it all relates to the title of her show, which evokes neither the beginning of a journey or the final destination, but the journey itself, the moments in which change are alive and happening, but have not arrived to their fruition.
"When I think about the concept of liminality you're in this middle place," Carrigan said. "I've experienced loss in my life, so there's a lot of those in-between moments that have entered into my artwork that is really very prevalent in the show.
Carrigan varies her expression by not just creating printed images on paper, but adding handmade books that extend the experience for the viewer and creates a level of collaboration in its requirement that the audience pick it up in order to look.
"From the first time I made a book, I realized that for me, I want the story to unfold," said Carrigan, "so whether that's through a book that you can page through, or a book that's set up sculpturally where you can watch the story move through the pages, I feel like the artist is somehow allowing the audience to interact in a different way than a two dimensional work might do."
Carrigan started out drawing and painting more than a decade ago, when she discovered monotype printmaking and was won over.
"It allowed me to be very painterly with the process," she said, "so it's almost as if I'm drawing and painting in ink.
Carrigan is also an art teacher, and has been since the age of 22, when she worked as a full-time high school art teacher.
She continued that path in New York and Vermont, and now works at the college level at the Community College of Vermont.
The Press Gallery speaks not only to her preferred method to create art, but to present it as well.
"I really love what Melanie Mowinski has brought to North Adams with this interactive space, really inviting the community to participate in the artwork," said Carrigan. "That's really something I believe in, as well."
There is no separation between creating and instructing, Carrigan says.
"I really love teaching just as much as I love making art," she said. "For me they go hand in hand and one feeds the other."
Carrigan lightened her artistic load for the last several years in order to raise her young children, but made sure that a few times a year she had a chunk of time to get something done, and now tries to make sure she takes a residency annually for a week or two.
"When I couldn't find time to make books or drawing or prints, I would find a way to redecorate my living room," said Carrigan. "Anything to be creative while I had young children. "
Though she works in Vermont, Carrigan lives in North Adams, and sees the show at the Press Gallery as the first step to bringing two parts of her life together for the first time -- home and art -- and hopes it's something she can continue to do.
"Much of my daily living is up in Vermont, but this is a way that I'm really thrilled to become more a part of where I live and share what I do here," Carrigan said.
Carrigan can be found online at valeriecarrigan.com.