Alchemy of Tea Exhibition Catalog


"Alchemy of Tea" combines a group of national artists who use tea as their medium and muse. Jen Crickenberger curated this unique collection in September 2014 for the Cornelius Arts Center. The exhibit was scheduled to travel as an evolving curated collection in 2015.

Alchemy of Tea brings together a

g r o u p o f n a t i o n a l a r t i s t s

inspired by tea. This unique and

stunning collection of work

provokes viewers to ponder the

transformation of tea from its

consumable and degradable form

into art. Tea has been a part of

sacred rituals across the globe for

centuries. The fragility and golden

hues found in this collection project

the historical and spiritual roots of

tea, while each artist’s subjects

juxtapose a contemporary take on

tea as a medium and muse. In

this setting, tea takes on many

forms alluding to themes of

introspection, domesticity,

memory and mortality.

Featured artists include

Barbara Bartlett, Bridget Conn,

Elizabeth Alexander, Jennifer

Coyne-Qudeen, Mari Omori

and Rodney Thompson.

~ Jen Crickenberger, Curator

Barbara Bartlett

Although I have been a lover of tea since

childhood, it was only about three years

ago that tea bags began to show up in my

artwork. Since then, I have immersed myself

in the world of the overlooked discarded

tea bag – the beauty of the stained paper,

the subtle colors of the spent tea leaves, the

bright variety of tea tag designs and even

the simple charm of stained tea strings. I

love the aspect of recycling and reuse that

comes into play in this work. Although the

process of drying and dissembling the bags

can be labor intensive, there is also a satisfying

and meditative quality to repurposing

the materials. As an artist, experimentation is

almost always central to my working process.

Bridget Conn

This body of work deals with my evolving

themes of ritual, tradition and inheritance, as

they blend with nature and science. I find

equal wonder in the traditional “women’s

work” activities of baking and cooking as I

do in studying geography, astronomy and

biology. These images are created to express

the wonder I see in the everyday; the

lurking sense of order and sacredness that

imbues even the most mundane of objects. I

strive to crossbreed the spiritual and the analytical,

rather than separate them into two

distinct languages. Printing images onto teabags

satisfies my personal conceptual concerns

of working with a material that holds

significance to me – the ritual of morning tea

that I have observed since I was a child.

Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander makes sculptures,

drawings and installations out of intricately

cut paper and found objects. Alexander’s

work deconstructs and then reconstructs

chosen objects, images, or spaces through

acts of concealment and disclosure so that

they become versions of themselves that

are different, unearthed from beneath the

surface and highly exaggerated. Patterns

are laboriously removed, divided, repurposed

or applied to utilitarian objects and

extravagant images giving them uncanny

emotional character. Vulnerability, loss,

escapism and longing are among what

stem the moment where these manipulated

items are neither materializing nor

disappearing, but caught between both


Jennifer Coyne–Qudeen

Memories are often associated with tastes,

scents and sounds. Tea is my memory link.

One whiff of freshly brewed black pekoe

with mint and orange transports me back

to my grandmother’s kitchen. Lady Grey

winds me to Newburgh, Scotland where I

first sampled its delicate yet steady taste.

My work with tea bags explores and

expands on the concept of memories,

whether real or imagined, through the use

of marks – the tea’s own as well as my

hand made marks, direct rust prints, digital

prints and hand and machine stitching. The

translucent quality of the tea bag paper

seems to be the perfect medium for

expressing and storing memories and as

with time, they become ethereal.

Mari Omori

My interest surrounding tea is the timeshared,

mutual respect between host and

guest, and memories of the moment as an

event. I am interested in how these

moments are prepared; how each person

comes together to connect with one

another. I have begun recording these

events that have taken place at my home,

at restaurants, artist studios, or at airportswherever

and whenever I have been a

witness to tea-centered events. Although I

am from Japan, I have lived in America

long enough that my identity and my

notion of home have been obscured.

Since 'home' is something of an imaginary

place for me, it has become a significant

force in my work as I explore its shape with

manipulation of materials.

Rodney Thompson

I often utilize common objects of everyday

life, things overlooked, disregarded and

unappreciated, and present them out of

context such that the viewer sees them

first for their beauty and later for what they

are. In this way I hope to suggest how

there is much to be seen and appreciated

in our world that is often missed. Beauty is

all around us, available to the observant

eye. Encaustic allows me to include these

objects and materials in my artwork in

ways that add layers of meaning to the

art, referencing both the joy of simple

activities of daily living as well as more

specific concepts that I associate with the

objects and materials.

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