Wrap Up: Coulter Fussell & Cecilia Ross-Gotta

Wrap Up: Coulter Fussell & Cecilia Ross-Gotta

The Holland Project just deinstalled two solo exhibitions in both their Main Gallery and Serva Pool Gallery; Cecilia Ross-Gotta and Coulter Fussell, both work in textiles exploring human interconnectedness.  Their two exhibitions were accompanied by an open Zoom discussion on January 30th with the artists and the two curators of both shows; Michelle Lassaline and Michelle Laxalt. Curators and participants had the chance to ask questions, and both artists shared powerful, personal insights into their work and the ties between each other’s practices.

Coulter Fussel’s River Raft Series 1: Jubilee! was featured in Holland’s Main Gallery.  Most of her seven works hung like large paintings, portraits, or landscapes featuring stripes, synthetics, plaids, plastics, denim, lace, cotton, wood, metal, glass, and a whole lot more.  With cushioned borders or delicate drapery, familiar patterns and printed graphics are stitched to burlap and crochet.  A piece might feature hidden pockets, a pair of gazing eyes, a few knitted hats, or a tiny envelope under glass reading, “surprise – open last”.  A Bank of Water Valley deposit bag is left open.  Each assemblage urges for exploration while faded logos, withered threading, and a few questionable stains hold clues to rich stories. Her largest piece was made up of 6 irregular quilt patterns that invite viewers to spin each one; creating a unique arrangement with every interaction. 

Install view of “Coulter Fussel’s River Raft Series 1: Jubilee!“, 2021, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno

In our discussion, Coulter mentioned being raised by a folk-artist father who supported her resourcefulness and fostered her ability to find curious stories in small (or rural) places.  She also said that if you want to get a better understanding of recent contemporary history, just look at the t-shirts of a given era.  All sorts of clothes have been mass-produced, branded, or customized for fashion labels, businesses, sporting events, and weddings; Coulter enjoys working with these garments as conceptual material.  This body of work is hand-sewn and made entirely of textiles and materials donated to Coulter’s studio in rural Mississippi. She prefers donated items as they find their way to her, not her to them. The artist reworks these materials with associated stories of entrapment/escape from her own upbringing in West Central Georgia river culture. Thinking of the river as an escape passage, her conceptualized “River Raft Quilts” help to both honor the materials and to redeem those stories held within. 

Install view of “Coulter Fussel’s River Raft Series 1: Jubilee!“, 2021, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno

Coulter Fussel learned to quilt by her mother, being born and raised in Columbus Georgia, an old textile town. She is the youngest quilter in her family, whose roots in quilting span multiple generations.  Her work has exhibited across the country including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Piecework Collective in New York City, and The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina.  Coulter now lives with her family in Water Valley Mississippi. 

Cecilia Ross-Gotta’s Feel Just Like Home was featured in the Holland Serva Pool Gallery. Twenty-one white hand towels hung from silver racks lining two walls of the gallery. The artist invited visitors to gently handle each towel to read their hand-stitched internet reviews. One review read, “Could use some deep cleaning. But front desk and housekeeping are amazing. GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE”.  Another, “If you never been to a crack house just go here and u can mark it off ur bucket list.”.  A single towel may have up to 4 reviews that tend to share a similar theme. One might contain more than 200 words while the review stitched beneath it reads, “Sucked”. With so many perspectives of the same location, one towel’s story reads like a joke complete with typos and unfinished thoughts, while others outline serious frustration and remorse for having had endured such a place.  Each review is paired with a name, date, and a rating out of five stars. Stars are categorized by color to highlight certain trends:

Red – drugs, sex workers

Orange – dirt, bugs

Yellow – linen and towel complaints

Green – review written by someone who lives there

Blue – reference to the people who stay there by other reviewers

Purple – references to danger

Black – no reference in particular

Install view of “Cecilia Ross-Gotta’s Feel Just Like Home“, 2021, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno

The reviews are of a motel where the artist’s family member lived from August 2016 to September 2019. They explore the question, “Is someone who lives in temporary housing still homeless?”. While hand-stitching these reviews may seem like a gesture towards homemaking, used linens, raw-edged towels, and cheap racks remind us that temporary housing is not home. Cicelia gave us a glimpse into this family relationship during our discussion and mentioned the two’s sporadic communication over 12 years.  Following an address sent in an email, she found herself fascinated with the reviews of their living situation. The culmination of anonymous voices lead the artist to make connections she never could have expected; identifying certain reviewers by whom they spoke of in relation to her family member – finding a sense of community made up of public comments surrounding the motel.  The artist also mentioned that her family member left their own review, and that their voice is included in this project.      

Install view of “Cecilia Ross-Gotta’s Feel Just Like Home“, 2021, The Holland Project Gallery, Reno

Originally from Kansas, Cicelia Ross-Gotta earned her BFA in Sculpture from Colorado State University in 2015, and her MFA in 3D4M (sculpture) from the University of Washington in 2017.  That year she also became a mother. She has exhibited throughout the Seattle area including The Henry Gallery, Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park, Gallery 4Culture, and Bainbridge Gallery of Art and Crafts.  Her work has also been featured in Surface Design Journal’s 2017 International Exhibition.

Coulter Fussell + Cicelia Ross-Gotta in Conversation w/ Guest Curators

About the Curators –

Both Michelle Lassaline and Michelle Laxalt earned their BFA’s through the University of Nevada, Reno and were thrilled to return to Holland and co-curate both of these artists back to back. 

Michelle Lassaline is a multidisciplinary artist from the Pacific Northwest and has served on Holland’s Gallery Committee from 2013-2016.  She now runs a full-time business performing as “The Taeuber Troupe” since 2018 at events such as the Seattle Mayor’s Arts Awards, the Tacoma Art Museum, the Holland Project, Nevada Museum of Art, Artown, and more.  She is currently pursuing her MFA at the Maine College of Art, while working on an upcoming solo exhibition for the Oats Park Art Center in Fallon, NV for August 2021.  Michelle Laxalt is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Atlanta, having earned her MFA as a Welch Fellow from Georgia State University.  She has given artist talks at Gallery 72 and MINT Gallery in Atlanta and has participated on artist panels at the Holland Project Gallery, Georgia Tech, and Auburn University.  In addition to her studio practice, she is also the Gallery Manager for the Forward Arts Foundation, a non-profit arts organization in Atlanta where she has overseen numerous group and solo exhibitions.

Otis Heimer

Otis Heimer received a BA in studio art from Principia College, Illinois in 2018; where he also served as teaching assistant and assistant curator for the James K. Schmidt Gallery the following year.  Moving back to Reno in 2019, he is currently on track to receive his master’s degree in museum and gallery management from Western Colorado University this spring.  You can follow his drawings on Instagram @hella.friggin