Sometimes we pick the work. And sometimes the work picks us, tapping us on the shoulder asking us to take it on. For Lisa Watson, the tap came unexpectedly.
While researching the Talmadge Memorial Bridge’s history for her solo show City Transversed in the City Hall Rotunda Gallery in 2015, Watson learned of the bridge’s rebuild and the past attempts to change the name from its present namesake, former Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge.
While hailed by some as a man for the common people, Talmadge’s time in office was filled with corruption, racism, and injustice. Compelled to action, Watson organized the Span the Gap exhibition, thus renewing the fervent conversation for the city to once again consider renaming the bridge. Span the Gap opens Friday, June 10 at Oglethorpe Gallery from 6-9pm and runs until June 24.
Despite the controversy around the bridge’s name, the exhibition does not preach an ethos. Rather the artwork seems to encompass a wider scope in the spirit of consideration, community, and a deep love of place, leaving behind overt social commentary.
Watson wants the work to speak for itself. “I asked each artist to express their interpretation of Savannah’s iconic bridge. Having one immense and important structure depicted repeatedly shows how a group of individuals can express its significance,” she says.
It’s this chorus of community and artistic voices that Watson has brought together that sets itself apart in this weekend’s show schedule. The work, by a diverse group of 24 artists, showcases the vibrant spectrum of the community, from folk artists to college art professors, and spans another kind of gap – a generational one, from elementary students to senior-aged artists.
The bridge’s signature lines dominate the imagery, yet are depicted through a broad range of mediums, perspectives, and physical scale.
The works together provide areas of reflection in pieces such as Miranda Wood’s portrait “Willie” and Mary Hartman’s “Crossing”, to the dream-like state of driving across the bridge’s expanse in Kenneth P. Ward’s, “Apex” and Rene Heidt’s “Be Cool”.
There are even a few surprises to be found.
Take time with Wanda Scott’s interactive book “Bridge Shadows”, which incorporates letterpress, ink on paper, collage, and pop-up art within an impressive book binding style. “Painted Creatures” by Loop It Up Savannah provides a lightness and a reminder of community. Sales of their individual creatures and collaborative work go to benefit Loop it Up’s youth art programming.
When asked what she hopes to achieve from this exhibition, Lisa states “I want to remind people how beautiful this bridge is, that it is important, and that a name means something.”
When Span the Gap closes on June 24, it will not be the end of the conversation on the renaming of the Talmadge Memorial Bridge nor the artwork the bridge continues to inspire. It will only renew the tapping on all our shoulders, that there is still work to be done.