Factory Works Gallery hosts collaborative exhibition ‘Call & Response’

Factory Works Gallery at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport invites you to “Call & Response: Joanne Landis and Elody Gyekis,” celebrating the strength of women through myth and magic, archetype and alchemy, March 2-29, in Studio 9-210, 1307 Park Avenue.

A year ago, artists Joanne Landis and Elody Gyekis embarked on a collaborative artistic journey. Having always admired each other’s work from afar, they both felt that the idea of collaborating had real potential. Though their respective work is aesthetically very different, they both explore similar ideas. In each of their independent work. they have both celebrated the power of women and their stories, utilizing a diversity of visual symbols and mythologies.

An opening reception will be held 6-9 p.m. Friday. As part of the exhibit, 7-9 p.m. March 16, the gallery will be hosting a talk by Joanne Landis where she’ll be discussing her recent trip to Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. Both events are free and open to the public.

Gyekis always knew of Landis and admired her work but had not really met her. In the years after earning her undergraduate degree, as she was trying to figure out the life of a self-employed artist, she would occasionally reach out to other artists who had a well-established career in the arts and just try to get to know them and their life.

A year ago, Landis and Gyekis met for coffee in Landis’s Pajama Factory studio and instantly hit it off.

“I reached out to Joanne and asked if I could visit her studio sometime,” Gyekis said. “We arranged a time and met for coffee, and there was a wonderful spark between us. She asked if I wanted to collaborate, and I was honored and excited and immediately said yes.”

It took them a little less than a year of occasionally getting together to talk about it, but once they had a plan, they began painting as much as they could and created the show.

“We had always admired each other’s work from afar, so when the idea to collaborate emerged, we both felt that it had real potential,” Gyekis said.

Though their work is aesthetically very different, Gyekis and Landis explore similar ideas. In their independent work, they have both celebrated the power of women and their stories, utilizing a diversity of visual symbols and mythologies.

“We did not have a specific plan or agenda, we only knew we wanted to work together and we trusted that the project would take shape organically as we responded to each other’s ideas and allowed something to grow between us,” Gyekis said.

They decided to create a total of six 48” by 60″ paintings and would begin by both independently making a painting inspired by the same image. After reviewing many images from both of their archives, they settled on a yellowed, grainy newspaper-clipping photograph of a girl carrying a large bundle on her head. Then they went their separate ways, to reconvene a month later with finished works.

“From there, we responded to the work the other had done by beginning a new painting, completing just the figure, and trading the canvases to finish each other’s works,” Gyekis said. “Finally, we did the same process again: beginning a painting, trading canvases, and then completing what we had been given.”

Originally from Lewisburg, Gyekis earned her bachelor of fine arts in painting and ceramics from Penn State. Her artwork includes painting, drawing, and sculpture and has been exhibited in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Syracuse, New York, Tucson, Arizona, Solomons, Maryland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Williamsport and Harrisburg. Her work has been in shows and private collections in Romania, Germany, England, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil, China and Canada.

From 2010-2017, Gyekis was a resident artist and assistant curator at the Green Drake Gallery and Arts Center in Millheim. In addition to her fine art work, she has been a community arts organizer and muralist for nine murals in State College, Harrisburg, Williamsport and Huntingdon. She now splits her time between living in Pennsylvania, Central America, and New York City, where she is currently earning her master of fine arts studies at the New York Academy of the Arts.

Gyekis and Landis will each have some of their usual independent work on display, to give visitors a taste of their divergent styles on their own, and to give them a perspective from which to understand the collaborative pieces and how their two styles have merged. There are six collaborative pieces, done in three sets of two.

“The first set Joanne and I each independently painted a complete painting inspired by the same single image,” Gyekis said. “The second set, we each painted a figure, traded canvases, and finished each other’s paintings, responding to the first set of paintings. The third set we did the same thing, each painting a figure, trading canvases, and completing the paintings responding to the earlier sets.”

Gyekis and Landis completed the six paintings in the three summer months of 2017. The first pair of independent works jumped off from the same point, the latter two pairs an inextricable combination of both of their work responding to the other. The six paintings are a reflection of their chemistry and the magic that emerged through delight and challenge, struggle and inspiration.

“We gave ourselves over to the lack of control of combining two very different and powerful female voices into one story, calling and responding to each other in an ancient cadence,” Gyekis said. “When we finished, we both felt we had just hit our stride, and we both knew that this collaboration must be revisited in the future.”

Gyekis said she hopes the audience can feel some of the spark of energy and excitement and chemistry that went into these works and be excited and empowered by it.

“It was an incredibly special experience to make this work with Joanne, an artist I admire so much,” she said. “We both challenged and pushed each other well outside our own comfort zones, and it was a freeing and exciting process. I hope that we will continue the collaboration and build an audience that wants to follow that collaborative journey along with us.”