At Your Service

After a year of proposals, fundraising, working with artists, writers, photographers and publishers- Amelia Toelke and I opened At Your Service at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin.  The show ran from July 2nd thru September 16th, exhibiting plate based works by Gesine Hackenberg, Molly Hatch, Garth Johnson, Sue Johnson, Amelia and myself.  We produced a catalogue for the show that featured writings by Lisa Gralnick and Garth Johnson with photography by Jim Escalante.

It was an incredible experience, unlike any project I’ve been involved in.

Here are a few gallery photos of the installation of the show taken by Sarah Jane Ripp.  (Click here to see more from the catalogue, learn more about the artists, or the reception.)

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At Your Service exhibition statement:

Our lives circle the plate. Like clockwork we turn to them when we are hungry, enjoying the way they complement our food with their color, patterning and design.  They facilitate everyday utopian moments, quieting the labors of production that build each meal.  While food is one of the first descriptions one will give of their culture, it is the plate that holds it all.

It seems strange then that the common plate is rarely examined for its broader social and cultural significance. While it is true that they provide a utilitarian support for the food we eat, adorn walls as decoration and commemorate events and places, they also behave as sites for cultural reflection.

The impetus for At Your Service began with Niki Johnson and Amelia Toelke’s  desire to exhibit with artists who had inspired them. During the first two years of their friendship Johnson and  Toelke independently began using the plate in their artwork. Their shared interest in these objects led to conversations that ranged from the utilitarian to the decorative, from issues of the domestic to innovations in design. Through their research and conversations they learned of a small group of working artists who were similarly using the plate as a site for cultural intervention and formal exploration.

Johnson and Toelke brought together the artists and writers in At Your Service in an effort to  facilitate broader discussions of what the plate can mean.  The inherent tropes of kitsch, commemoration, decoration, adornment, preciousness and historical virtue are both celebrated and made suspect by the works on display.

“Our hope is that the wide scope of work in this exhibition provides an experience that encourages viewers to incorporate their own stories and experiences. Though the exhibition focuses on the plate, it ultimately fosters a dialogue about the inherent qualities of everyday objects and the impact they have on our daily lives.” –Niki Johnson and Amelia Toelke


Now that the exhibition at the Overture has ended, Amelia and I are focusing our energies on securing future exhibitions for At Your Service for 2014.  Our hope is that we will be able to include a few more artists, as to broaden the dialogue of this show.  Wish us luck!

For more information on the the show please visit:


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