Dana Haugaard’s exhibition is one part of the annual award made by the Forward Arts Foundation to an early-career or under-recognized Atlanta artist sponsored by Betty and Bob Edge. The winning artist receives $10,000, a two-week residency at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap and a solo exhibition at Swan Coach House Gallery (through May 20). Four runners-up — Davion Alston, Fredrik Brauer, Eleanor Neal and Saige Rowe — each receive $2,000 and have a work exhibited in the gallery foyer. This award is indeed a significant leg up for each artist.
The title of Haugaard’s exhibition, That breeze just keeps blowing over me is pleasing to the senses. It evokes movement, nature and the body. An empathetic viewer responds immediately. There’s something in these words that evokes the warmth of spring, light and pleasure.
The works are all irregularly shaped, with not a rectangle to be seen. Each of the eight works on the wall has a one-of-a-kind shape. All are on paper, mounted on panel, and presented in handmade floater frames of wood with black-line insets. The craftsmanship is handsome and seamless. The only problem (if it can be called a problem) is that the viewer’s attention is drawn to the artistry, refinement and skill of presentation.The process Haugaard has developed to create these works is complex. Although abstract, they’re actually portraits. The artist asked each subject to recount a “sense memory.” Haugaard built a machine he calls an “audiograph” to draw these sense memories. The result is a line drawing of the sound waves transcribed from recordings of each subject speaking about sensations, personal narratives and themselves, resulting in a kind of inner portrait. The audiograph drawings are layered on shaped and painted works. Most visual transcriptions of audio signals are linear, buy the marks made by Haugaard’s audiograph are circular because the surface on which it writes rotates, making the notation of words and sounds more abstract.
Everything around me was nebulous and wispy (I remember just feeling everything) [Ryan], 2021, is a mixed-media work made with spray paint, grease pencil, colored pencils and ink. Its shape is akin to the map of a state or island in its irregularities; the boundaries look as if some gerrymandering politician made them. The work has a dark gray inky essence that covers the background, progressing to a yellowish tinge at the edge. Layered, spray-painted white circles in a humorous polka-dot pattern give the work a kind of levity. In addition, there’s a circular drawing by the machine lightly spiraling in the upper quadrant of the work.
Sucked into the vortex [Emily], 2021, also looks like a continent or island, with a shape is reminiscent of South America. This work’s softly blended color evokes the sky at sunset. The circular shape and wave pattern made by the audiograph is like a small sunburst of yellow lines.I was over the moon [Leigh], 2021, has a completely different shape. It’s more biomorphic, like a thought balloon that ruptured and undulated into an attractive blob whose palette goes from umber to gold to a cool zinc yellow. The audiograph’s overlay is composed of abrupt-seeming marks that accentuate the bulbousness of the form, giving one the sense of an internal organ gone awry. This work has a delightful and funny cartoonish edge.
In the center of the gallery is a bench made by the artist. An External Source of Movement (2021), made of wood, steel, two-channel audio and tactile (vibrating) transducer is meant for sitting. As you listen to the 31-minute audio of the narrative portrait, the bench vibrates, driving the sound into your body. The bench is wooden and irregularly shaped; like the wall works, it suggests a land mass or geographic form.
Haugaard’s works provide intimate looks into the sound, language and poetry of another person. Each produces a feeling of connectedness to the individual portrayed. Even though these works are abstract, they reflect the singularity of each person. The show succeeds because the works allow the viewer to access the innermost thoughts and emotions of another person on a nonrepresentational level. The experience is that of a meditation on sound, shape and form.