By KELLY DOLEJSI
After being friends and artistic collaborators for more than two decades, Fairley Barnes and Katy Korkos decided it was time to celebrate what has always made their relationship so meaningful: their conversations.
In “The Art of Conversation,” an installation showing Saturday through Jan. 27 in the upstairs gallery at Mesa Public Library during regular library hours, the longtime interlocutors continue the dialogue through sculptures, drawings, journals and quilts. The opening reception is 2-4 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve been talking about art and making art together for at least 25 years,” Korkos said. “Our current project is the result of conversations we’ve had where we inspire each other and find the interconnectedness in our thinking.”
These talks are “underlain by years of trust and vulnerability,” Barnes said. “That allows us to be very open in conversation and provides safety in creativity — a safe creative space.”
Barnes added that the upcoming exhibit is the result of “thoughts composting over 25 years.” One of the highlights of the show is a large mixed-media piece that contrasts forged and welded steel with lace and silk. It contains lots of what Korkos calls “evidence of the hand.”
“The doilies we used are stained, distorted, encrypted and embellished,” Barnes said. “That’s the passage of time.”
Korkos said that the two friends come at art from different backgrounds, but “because we’ve talked so much, we’ve developed similar iconographies.”
For example, in Korkos’ quilts, she returns again and again to birds. Korkos said she finds the symbolism of birds — the ideas flight, freedom, safety in nests and singing — more important than the actual bird.
Barnes, a forest ecologist, also features birds in her work, but she finds herself more interested in birds’ evolution and survival, and how they interact with the environment and each other.
“I’m coming from ecology,” Barnes said.
“I’m coming from words,” Korkos said.
“We crash into each other happily, without aggression,” Barnes added.
Barnes said a lot of her own work is “ephemeral. It’s so much like conversation. You pass through it or it passes through you. You might not have something to show for it.” Barnes further describes conversations as “pathways or journeys. I often see myself slowly getting into a conversation, noticing reactions, sharing them — very much what a journey is.”
Other pieces in the show address questions the duo have encountered along their paths: How would an alien describe human senses back on its home planet? How would you visualize the intent to speak?
Not all pieces are directly collaborative, but Korkos and Barnes said each piece was discussed with and inspired by each other.
Barnes, formerly of Los Alamos, now lives in Santa Fe and regularly exhibits throughout the region.
Los Alamos residents have seen Korkos’ fabric and collage art in juried exhibitions at the Fuller Lodge Art Center, which also featured her work in a solo show in 2010 in the Portal Gallery, and in galleries in Jemez, Santa Fe and Madrid. They also remember her piquant creations at Katherine’s Restaurant in White Rock. She works at Mesa Public Library.