Thursday, September 13, 2012

woman on the run

As dusk settles upon a sleepy little town, a lone woman checks herself into a seedy motel for the night. Her name is Veronica Hayden and she is on the run. Her husband, Victor Hayden, has gone missing. Rather than submit to police questioning, Veronica has gone into hiding. A private eye is hot on her trail, forcing her to keep on the move.

Veronica Hayden’s story and her reasons for running away are hinted at in this multi-media exhibition. The narrative of her life is presented in fragments. Details can be found in the miniature-scale town, video projections revealing snippets of Hayden’s trail and in clues left behind in the full-scale motel room.

Presented in the style of film noir, Veronica Hayden defies traditional stereotypes often found in modern cinema. Her role as either a femme fatale or good girl is not clear. That is for the viewer to discover and determine.

Woman on the Run was initially exhibited at Selfridges of London in 2008 and at Frieze that same year. It has since traveled to Smack Mellon in New York City, the 21c Museum, the Frist Museum and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Article: Multimedia Exhibit Explores Representations of Tough and Sexy Women
Wednesday, March 21,2012



Setting and content of artist Tracey Snelling’s Woman on the Run exhibit are a study in contrasts.
On a recent Saturday, the sun played dazzlingly across the sylvan refuge of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, or SECCA, formerly the English Hunt-style mansion of hosiery magnate James G. Hanes.

Hanes’ bequest to the art world reflects the industrial aristocracy, gracious living and assured social status that made his one of the three families, along with the Reynolds and the Grays, that put the city on the map.

The post-World War II milieu of Snelling’s imagination is an altogether more insecure place fraught with betrayal, seemingly on the verge of violent explosion and animated by desperate social striving. And it’s a parched and gritty landscape seething with instability, not the patrician East of strictly defined class relationships that Hanes knew.

The protagonist of Woman on the Run is obviously female, but a quick reference to heroine Veronica Hayden’s husband is in order. Described in an essay by Frist Center for the Visual Arts Associate Curator Trinita Kennedy as a “dark and shady businessman” and in a static-y, blackand-white newscast as a “man about town,” one imagines the fictitious Victor Hayden as a man from a hard and unforgiving background willing to cut corners to attain money, status and pleasure. He can be contrasted with the real-life James G. Hanes, a man who during the same historical period energetically promoted involuntary sterilization for the so-called “feeble minded” with a self-assurance that can be held only by those with unparalleled financial and political power.

The multimedia installation that is Woman on the Run thrusts visitors into a fragmented narrative based on the premise that its heroine is wanted by the US Marshals Service for questioning in the disappearance of her husband. Veronica Hayden somewhat resembles the character played by Susan Sarandon inThelma & Louise with her casually thrown scarf and oversized sunglasses, but Kennedy describes her as an homage to noir pinup queen Veronica Lake. She’s a pastiche of any number of alluring Hollywood femme fatales who chafe at the moral constraints of society, flirt with danger and swerve between the roles of victim and perpetrator. Beyond the setup, the installation leaves all the questions it raises unresolved and gives no clue about Veronica Hayden’s eventual fate. Is she guilty or innocent? Is her husband really dead or has he staged his own disappearance? Is he a threat to her? Will she get caught? Will she pay for her supposed transgressions?

In a fitting if completely unintentional parallel, my wife and I walked a labyrinth at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greensboro as part of our Lenten reflection before visiting SECCA. Walking the circular configuration at Holy Trinity gave us both a sense of calm. As a traditional labyrinth, there were no forks or dead-ends, but the pathway wound in and out before finally reaching the center.

Woman on the Run is a different kind of labyrinth. A hall of mirrors assembled from paintings, video, signage and set designs, Snelling’s installation is disorienting rather than centering. The story is told in video screens set inside windows in paintings that show the heroine hurriedly packing and drinking booze. In other scenes, she drinks in a seedy bar and dances in an upper room with a mysterious man. A musty scent hangs in a forlorn hotel room with molding wallpaper complete with a disheveled bed, cast-off blond wig, brassiere dangling from a doorknob and stilettos tossed carelessly across the floor. A jarring soundtrack of lonesome steel guitar and train whistles plays up the desolate feeling to histrionic effect.

Visitors won’t find any definite answers in this funhouse, but if they pay close attention they might run across some stray clues about the nature of power, personal quest, female identity, desire, freedom and acceptance.

wanna go?

Woman on the Run remains on exhibit at SECCA, located at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston-Salem, through May 27.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Woman on the Run showing at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

SECCA’s Woman on the Run exhibition Opening March 1

WINSTON-SALEM, NC (Feb. 21, 2012) – It’s a dark and stormy night, with neon motel signs providing the only glow. Out of the shadows of dingy back alleys and tired brick storefronts, there is a woman trying to slip away. The only thing she leaves behind is the hollow sound of spiked heels clattering on the sidewalk. What has she done? Where is she running?

Film noir intrigue comes alive in Tracey Snelling’s stage set installation Woman on the Run at The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) beginning March 1, 2012. SECCA is located at 750 Marguerite Drive, near Wake Forest University.

At 7 p.m. Friday, March 1, SECCA will host an introductory artist talk by Snelling in the McChesney Dunn Auditorium followed by an opening reception. During the presentation Snelling will discuss the motivations and manufacture behind her exhibition, as well as the larger context of her cinematically influenced practice. The event is free and open to the public. Woman on the Run will be on view until May 27, 2012.

SECCA Executive Director Mark Leach says, “Snelling’s work is continually evolving as it changes in the eyes of each person who walks through her sculptural maze. While she leaves a constellation of clues as to who the woman is, and what she’s done, Snelling presents no answers. In a sense, the mystery of the story becomes the core of an exhibition that never reaches a full conclusion.”

In Woman on the Run, Snelling evokes a world of black & white Hollywood crime thrillers where the lines between good and evil becomes tantalizingly blurred. Within the exhibition space Snelling creates a world unto itself, where audiences will walk through pieces of a city and an abandoned motel room. The woman is the protagonist, and the question remains what did she do and did she really do it?

Snelling builds sets of all scales, from toy model to lifesize, that map the seedy, but unmasked sides of cities across America. This exhibition brings cinema to life, and invites the viewer inside to navigate a world of femme fatales, gritty theatre, and the questions of female representation in film. The viewer lives the mystery and follows a trail of clues through film, video, sculpture and environment.

SECCA Curator of Contemporary Art Steven Matijcio says, “In anticipation of the River Run film festival and the film lovers it brings out, Snelling’s Woman on the Run allows people to experience cinema in an expanded field. Without a beginning or end, the audience is thrust into the middle of a retro crime drama whose meaning accumulates with every additional step through the set. One can only really know this experience by becoming part of its world.”

The exhibition was collaboratively produced by The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, TN and SECCA. Woman on the Run recently showed at the 21C Museum in Louisville Kentucky, and will be presented at the newly re-named Virginia MoCA this Fall. For additional details, please visit

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem is an affiliate of the North Carolina Museum of Art, a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.   SECCA is also a funded partner of The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Additional funding is provided by the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund.
About the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state supported symphony orchestra, the State Library, the N.C. Arts Council and the State Archives.
The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources serves as a champion for North Carolina’s creative industry, which employs nearly 300,000 North Carolinians and contributes more than $41 billion to the state’s economy.  To learn more visit

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Woman on the Run at the Frist Center for Contemporary Arts, Nashville, TN

Critic's Picks in ArtForum:


919 Broadway
September 9–February 5

Tracey Snelling, Woman on the Run, 2008–11, mixed media. Installation view.
Is she an innocent woman or a femme fatale? The question lies at the heart of Tracey Snelling’s elaborate multimedia installation Woman on the Run, 2008–11, which follows the fate of the fictional Veronica Hayden, wanted by the police for questioning after the disappearance of one rather shady husband. Perhaps to avoid detention, Veronica, played by Snelling, dons a blond wig, dark sunglasses, and a leopard-skin scarf, and makes a run for the US-Mexico border.

Snelling translates the classic 1940s whodunit of so many film noir classics into a three-dimensional fantasyland. Partly reverential, partly Disney kitschy, her sets, installed throughout the gallery, borrow freely from Hollywood tropes: Long vistas are nothing more than photographic wallpaper and buildings are just thinly constructed facades. Weaving around billboards and cut-out figures, and heading down make-believe streets, we see our heroine through the windows of dingy hotel rooms and darkened bars. Her visage, presented sometimes in short looped videos and at other times in still photo light boxes, is that of a fearful woman trying to exist in the shadows. Our final stop is in the “No-Tell Motel,” where we find Victoria’s suitcase resting on a rumpled bed, her signature blond wig spilling over the edge. Did she make a final dash to the border, leaving all evidence of her past behind? Or was she captured? We’ll never truly know.

Rebecca Cochran, ARTFORUM  (

Here are some additional images from the Installation at the Frist:

And the original mock-ups for the Entry and Main rooms:

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Photoshoot of Woman on the Run at 21c Hotel and Museum

All photographs are courtesy of the 21c Hotel Museum and All rights reserved by BrainSpark Media
21c Main Entrance

Walking into the 21c

Lobby Gallery from Check-In area
Looking down the Lobby Gallery
Inside the Motel Room
Wide View of Motel Room with Dresser and TV
The Alley

View of The Alley from Proof on Main

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Feature: 21c's Director, William Morrow.

Reposting this great article by Elizabeth Kramer of Louisville's Courier-Journal about William Morrow, Director of 21c's Musuem. William is seen below, photographed inside the "Woman on the Run" motel room.

November 22, 2010
Photo by Matt Stone, The Courier Journal
21c art wrangler extraordinaire: Hotel job keeps William Morrow hopping

By Elizabeth Kramer
21c Museum Hotel has defied definition since it opened in 2006. It's a hotel. It's a gallery. It's a restaurant. It's open 24 hours a day. And it has received accolades for its art and its hospitality.

That makes director William Morrow more than a busy man. 

Morrow, 32, along with owners Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown, manages all the art and arts-related activities at 21c, and that covers a lot of ground.

A few weeks ago, Morrow was on the hotel's rooftop setting up equipment for a film screening by the Louisville Film Society. Back inside, he was managing a change of exhibitions in the galleries. Morrow and Wilson curated the outgoing show, an exhibit of photographs and sculptures by Simen Johan called “Until the Kingdom Comes,” selecting works from the 21c collection and securing other pieces through loans from galleries and other private collections.

As that came down, Morrow was working with artist Tracey Snelling to coordinate the installation of her sprawling piece, called “Woman on the Run.” This exhibit, with its film noir influence and an architectural landscape of buildings incorporated with photography and other media, essentially meant setting up a motel in the hotel's lobby.

“One day I'm up on a ladder working on a projector, but also thinking about interpreting art at 21c,” Morrow said.

Morrow is busy, but he likes it that way. He enjoys the diversity of his job even more. And keeping up with all of those tasks is exactly what Wilson expects from his director.

“It's a variety of things he helps us do, including documenting the collection and keeping up with the values and the trends,” Wilson said. “And he keeps up with upcoming shows and the museum shows around the country and the world.”

Morrow, a Louisville native, met Wilson and Brown nearly 10 years ago, after he graduated from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with a master's degree in art history and English literature. 

Morrow went to work for Wilson and Brown at their home in Goshen. Their art collection was growing fast, and keeping track of the contemporary work the couple had assembled inspired him. He went back to Europe and enrolled in the graduate program in museum studies at the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. 

Through that program, he got to work at museums and handle pieces by Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. While working with fellow students to curate an exhibit of heroes and villains, he began to explore the collection of Latin American art at Essex University.

“And I discovered, literally, in this broom closet, this 6-foot-by-6-foot painting by Raúl Martínez, one of the most famous pop artists from Cuba,” Morrow said.

If he wasn't hooked on museums already, that sealed the deal.

Morrow wrote his dissertation on the role of the benefactor in American art. Morrow researched the institutions set up by philanthropists during the Gilded Age of the late 1880s through the Progressive Era of the early 1900s. He documented how corporations become involved in supporting art in the latter part of the 20th century — and how that support waned as the year 2000 approached.

That provided Morrow with a historical perspective on the evolving idea of supporting visual art when he moved home to Louisville in fall 2005. At that time, “21c was on the front burner and in full swing.”

He hooked up with Wilson and Brown right away, as they were preparing for their spring 2006 debut as hoteliers-cum-gallerists.

Morrow sees Wilson and Brown's venture — which now includes developing other 21c Museum Hotels in Cincinnati, Bentonville, Ark., and possibly Austin, Texas — as a new and much-needed way of making visual art accessible to the public.

“Most of my colleagues (at traditional museums) are constantly doing capital campaigns to sustain themselves,” he said. “Most traditional museums seem so static because they are so separated from real-life scenarios. And I do think there's a place for that, because there is definitely a need for places of contemplation, and that's what some of the more traditional museums are better at.”

The primary challenge at 21c, he said, is not financial but the result of the Main Street building's architectural limitations. The experience here has proved instructive, he said, as the 21c design team develops the new properties.

Reaching out
Morrow has expanded his role by reaching out to other arts groups in the community, such as the film society. 

That partnership led to a film series that has brought movies to 21c for 36 consecutive months.

There is the 21c Monthly Poetry Series with Sarabande Books, the acclaimed Louisville-based literary press, and a regular Sunday event called Cabaret Life Drawing. It provides interesting models for anyone who wants to come and practice drawing. There's also Yoga with Art, where yoga students can practice among 21c's artworks.

Molly Swyers, who works with Morrow on publicity and marketing efforts, credits him with making 21c more of a cultural center.

“When we first opened 21c, I don't think anyone involved saw the potential for it to become a cultural center for the community,” she said. “William really took it upon himself to develop relationships and collaborate with many other organizations in this community to create opportunities for people to have these cultural experiences.”

Expansion beckons
Looking back on the last five years, Morrow called himself lucky to have the opportunity to have such a novel job in his hometown.

“I'm not coming from a restaurant or a hotel background, so the learning curve there has been tremendous,” he said. “But being able to be in on the 21c development from the design phase has been fascinating — to see how a restaurant gets started, and how the hotel came to fruition, and being a part of Steve and Laura Lee's collection before 21c.” 

Wilson feels fortunate, too. 

“We're lucky to have someone like him who happens to be from Kentucky and is well educated in the field that we are so involved with,” Wilson said. “The scope of our collection has grown, and when we first began collecting, we didn't even know we were going to be doing 21c. And as our collection has increased, William's been able to keep up with the pace.”

With what is planned for Louisville's 21c and the opening of others across the country, Wilson said, he sees Morrow keeping very busy over the next few years.

Reporter Elizabeth Kramer can be reached at (502) 582-4682.