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Yana Rodin stands beneath one of her hanging installations
KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

String Theory
Through Nov. 29
Work made with string by Zachary Smith, Emma Mierop and Yana Rodin
Studio Montclair Incubator at Academy Square Galleries
33 Plymouth St.
Studiomontclair.org

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

When you think of work made with string, you probably think of crafts shows. That’s where Montclair artist Emma Mierop has shown her work before.

But “String Theory,” a show in Studio Montclair Inc.’s Incubator Galleries at Academy Square, challenges that idea.

Three artists — Mierop, Yana Rodin, and Zachary Smith — display their work their in an exhibition that runs through Nov. 29.

For all three, it’s either the first or one of the first gallery shows where they’ve shown their work.

That’s the point of the space, said Kathryn Waggener McGuire, who is co-program director

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KATHRYN WAGGENER MCGUIRE

of the Incubator Galleries along with Lisa Diamond Rosenthal.

The idea behind the Incubator Space, which was Studio Montclair’s regular gallery space before they opened their own home at 127 Bloomfield Ave. last year, is to present emerging artists who have a full body of work but are not represented by a gallery, and are not living off their work.

That may change: at the opening on Thursday, Oct. 4, the three artists mingled with many viewers, artists, friends and family. The galleries were crowded and buzzing, and red dots indicating “sold” were running low.

“These are people who have, you know, 30 to 100 pieces at home but have no idea how to write a press release,” McGuire explained. She and Rosenthal work with the artists on the process of writing releases, label copy, selecting work to show.

“We find the people, and pair them in teams of two or three. Our mission is not to just teach them how to show off their work, but also to create captivating shows, well-curated exhibitions that the public can identify with. In order to really sell work, that’s the key.”

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This is the third Incubator show, but the first with months of lead time, McGuire explained. Local artist Miriam Jacobs served as a mentor for the show.

McGuire met Smith during SMI’s “Art Lotto” show, in which artists were paired with others to create portraits. “I was captivated by his fine embroidery work,” she said. McGuire knew of Rodin’s installation work, and she came across Mierop’s when she stopped into Parcel, the paper goods and vintage store on Bloomfield Avenue where Mierop works. Seeing Mierop’s embroidery work, McGuire saw a link between the three artists.

Rodin’s work are geometric sculptures and installations. Smith’s hand-embroidered hangings are detailed and bold, while Mierop’s whimsical embroidered pieces, made by machine, show off the drawn design.

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Emma Mierop’s “Santos Twins.” COURTESY STUDIO MONTCLAIR INC.

DIFFERENT YARNS

The artists’ medium is one of the few things they have in common.  Another common thread is that all the artists’ work is in some way personal.

The child of artists, making art was always what Mierop wanted to do. But it was discovering a room with vintage textiles and antique patterns and sewing equipments in her grandparents’ home that made her fall in love with embroidery.

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Emma Mierop, one of the three artists participating in the exhibit “String Theory,” part of the Incubator Space at Academy Square series. KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

Her whimsical work is inspired by carnival and circus images, she writes in her artist statement. “I feel a sentimental longing or wistful affection for something that existed either in the past or perhaps never really existed at all,” she writes. The 25-year-old Montclair native has exhibited in crafts shows but this is her first gallery show. She has learned a lot from being in this show, she said, including working on a postcard and press release. Unlike crafts shows and pop-up shows, this show has her on the bill with other artists, and she loves that too.

Zachary Smith’s work is also tied to his life, in a frank way. His hand-made embroidered hangings are “a historical record of time that I cannot quite remember,” he writes in his artist’s statement. From late teenage years into his mid 30s, he writes, he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. He began to get sober at 35. Now 38, the artist said he began doing this type of work after picking up an embroidery kit one day at a fabric store, shopping with his girlfriend. He fell in love with the process, and began making his own designs.  

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Zachary Smith’s “And I Hallucinated That the Too Large Moon Was a Fake,
Being Suspended in the Sky by Human Means.” COURTESY STUDIO MONTCLAIR INC.

“Since I got sober, I’ve needed an outlet,” he said. “It started coming, and it hasn’t really

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Zachary Smith stands with his work. KATE ALBRIGHT/FOR MONTCLAIR LOCAL

stopped yet. This series is a lot of about remembrances of things I can’t quite remember.

So it’s just a lot of ideas and impressions from a period that I don’t necessarily have more than ideas and impressions about. Getting out years’ worth of stifled impulses.”

Working in yarn also brings Smith back to his childhood, when he would work with cross-stitch kits while his seamstress mother made clothes.

Russian-born Rodin sees herself as a sculptor, and began working with yarn to try something new, she said. In her artist statements, she says she likes to “disrupt the ordinary.” Like Smith, her work connects to her past. “My mother always knitted for us,” Rodin said. “I started knitting recently, and then I started embracing the knitting with the art. I started combining it, and sculpting it.

“And I kind of thought it was interesting how my mother did it out of necessity… ” she trailed off. “It’s not necessary to have an installation. I wanted to explore that whole thing. A lot of things are machine-made now, and we’re losing a lot of the work that women used to do, that was necessary to do. It’s kind of taking the history of where it came from, and bringing it into the modern world.”

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Yana Rodin’s “Evanescent Aquatica.” COURTESY STUDIO MONTCLAIR