If you have flown into or out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, then you are probably already familiar with the work of contemporary artist Cheryl Goldsleger. In Terminal A is a large-scale installation, a 25-by-25-foot mosaic tile floor whose design is based on a mid-19th-century map of the heart of the city. It’s a piece of walkable art, trod on by countless travelers since 2009.
Titled “Crossroads,” the work makes reference to Atlanta’s role as a major antebellum roadway and railroad juncture. Framed by a design reminiscent of the configuration of a labyrinth or garden maze, it also conjures up memories of those moments of disorientation that we have all felt when trying to navigate the intricacies of an unfamiliar space – be it a city streetscape or an airport terminal.
Until Aug. 9, eight paintings by Cheryl Goldsleger, four mixed media pieces and four watercolors, will be on display at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta. Collectively entitled “Vast Scale-Intimate Space,” three of these works were exhibited in the prestigious Venice Biennale just last year.
The 60-by-60-inch oil on linen piece titled “Coalescence” (2019) offers an example of the artist’s basic strategy. Superimposed over what reads like a high-altitude topographical study – delicate grids and blocks of color in jewel tones set against a black background, Goldsleger has superimposed intricate swirls of white lines culminating in a central vortex.
In her essay for the catalog accompanying a 2017 exhibition of the artist’s work at the Morris, critic Lilly Wei describes Goldsleger’s visual compositions as combining the “celestial and the terrestrial.” A close examination of “Coalescence” and the other works in the current show validates that assertion. The overlay of white swirling lines emulates the orbits of celestial bodies or perhaps a spherical astrolabe or star chart; the underlying geometric background offers the viewer a glimpse of our planet as seen from above.
In effect, the artist provides us with an astronaut’s view of our world. Each piece captures vast distances within the modest confines of the typical painting or watercolor.
Mapping space is nothing new in Goldsleger’s career, which has focused for many years on research-based art. From 2009 to 2013, for example, she spent many hours in the archives of the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Academy of Sciences, examining the architectural drawings of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Completed in 1924, the Goodhue-designed building on Constitution Avenue became the source of the artist’s linear explorations. Line by line, her drawings took the viewer through various interior spaces in the building, as if the artist and, by extension, the viewer were hovering above the roofline. The lofty perspective assumed in the NAS project is once again adopted in the pieces showcased in the current Morris exhibition.
“Vast Scale – Intimate Space” is being heralded as a valedictory exhibition of sorts since Cheryl Goldsleger has reached the end of her five-year term as the most recent Morris Eminent Scholar of Art at Augusta University. She was appointed in 2015. Thanks to the generosity of Bank of America, admission to this exhibition and the museum as a whole is free this summer until Aug. 31. For more information, visit the Morris on the web at www.themorris.org.