By Louise Palermo, Curator of Education

An interesting thing happened in March 2020. At a time when people were forced to disconnect from each other, an artist, an art center and an art museum partnered to connect people, through art, from all points of the United States and Canada.

The Exquisitely Connected Project came from the mind of Molly Gaston Johnson, a New Jersey-based artist who works closely with Monmouth Art Center in Red Bank, NJ. Molly was Maryhill Museum of Art’s Section Three artist in the colossal The Exquisite Gorge Project in 2019, when 11 artists created a 66-foot woodblock print with the Columbia River as the unifying element in an “exquisite corpse” inspired print created using a 13.5 ton steamroller. Molly wanted to find a way to use art to bring people back together during the pandemic in exquisite corpse-style. (The “Exquisite Corpse” is a Surrealist drawing game in which participants took turns creating sections of a body on a piece of paper, drawing over the edge, and folding each section to hide the contribution. When unfolded, the whole body is revealed in all its unique splendor, perfectly connecting to each drawing.)

Finding Connection in a Disconnected Time - Maryhill Museum - Columbia Gorge

This bright work is by Winnie Chapin Young, a pre-K teacher, choreographer and artist living in Seattle. She used Worry Dolls because she has given many to students and friends to help with anxiety and fears during this corona virus homestay (you tell a worry to the doll and put it under your pillow and sleep on it. The doll absorbs the worry). She says that, for her young students, just having a way to talk about worries and get them out in a safe way is very helpful. The dice are her way of showing how we deal with the luck of the throw and how we are all connected through this time that feels out of our control.

Johnson asked the public to make images on a square of paper, with the image flowing off the page at the north, south, east, and west points, like a compass. The idea was to upload images onto Maryhill Museum of Art’s website and through these compass-like points, a virtual connection would be made. People could see how alike we are, and we could also experience how unique and creative we can be, even in a pandemic!

But here is the GREAT NEWS!  You can now come to Maryhill Museum of Art and visit the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust Education Center to see this exciting project… IN PERSON!

Each image was printed on durable tile and displayed as envisioned, with one image connecting to the next. Thus, you will find Molly’s vision of an ever-changing narrative of images, emotions, and imaginations, connecting us in a disconnected time.

EXQUISITELY CONNECTED is on view until November 1, 2021. 

And, the online project continues. Visit our The Exquisitely Connected Project to see all of the submitted images. When you click on an image, you will also be able to read the artist’s statement. Feeling creative? It’s not too late to participate — go to The Exquisitely Connected Project for instructions and to upload your image today!