The insect makes its debut at Decordova's annual exhibition
by Leon Nigrosh
THE 2000 DECORDOVA ANNUAL EXHIBITION
At the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln,
through September 4.
The DeCordova's annual summer showcase happens to be in its
10th year, and this traditionally un-themed
exhibit has for a decade stymied critics yearning to draw comparisons and to
make grand statements about contemporary New England artists. But this year, in
their zeal to retain the lack of a specific theme, the curators have
inadvertently created several possibilities, not the least of which is bugs.
Of the 10 artists, about half feature works that either include or are related
to insects. The most physically imposing is Apiary, a 100-foot-diameter
installation by Laura Baring-Gould, a Clark University art teacher. This
yurt-like structure, which spirals upward from floor to ceiling, is constructed
entirely with wrapped hay. And it's a complete sensual experience. First there
is the smell of the hay, then you see the free-blown glass ampoules filled with
five different grades of honey; feel the rough sheet copper floor, and hear the
random buzz of bees at work around their hive.
It took 180 hours just to wrap the hay. In fact, Baring-Gould names nearly 80
people on her thank-you list for such things as blowing the glass, creating
structural elements, recording the bees, and gathering honey. It is as if she
is the Queen Bee in charge of but dependent upon her workers.
Another theme inadvertently introduced in this year's selection is the use of
unconventional materials such as coffee filters and dryer sheets. Worcester
artist Patricia Trevisan Woods employs these items, along with handmade paper,
beaver sticks, and eucalyptus pods, in the construction of her garment
sculptures. Still complying with the unintentional insect theme, her Moth
Cloak and Beetle Cape are patterned after these arthropods by gluing
and stitching washed, dried, and ironed coffee filters in intricate formations
that look much like gossamer wings. The used filters also lend an old-world
look to Three Dresses with their bodices, ruffles, and flounces set off
by accents of white handmade paper.
Not fitting into any of the unintended themes -- but notable for their
spookiness -- are Ri Anderson's photographs of dead people. Well, they're not
really dead. Taking the camp "Untitled Film Stills" scenes by photographer
Cindy Sherman to the next level, Anderson poses herself in the same cocktail
dress as deceased within specific settings. In Road Out of Roswell, New
Mexico, April 29, 1998, Dusk, we see her face down on a dirt road with a
rock near her head. From the right foreground, the headlights of an automobile
illuminate the morbid scene. And we can see the partial reflection of the
driver in the outside mirror. We are left to wonder what we are looking at. The
juxtaposition of elements creates an illusory vision that implicates the viewer
as voyeur, witness, or even as an accessory-after-the-fact.
In an enclosed space separated from the rest of the exhibition, and taking the
insect thing to the nth degree, Remo Campopiano has created a miniature city
with his 16-foot-diameter installation Under the Volcano. Constructed of
cut-up circuit boards and computer parts arranged around a large mound of sand,
this city of the future is a fantasy landscape by itself. But it's populated by
2500 live California Harvester ants! The ants live in the sand mound and
venture through the "metropolis" toward the water supply that rings the city
like a moat. Along the way, they move sand down from the hill, already shifting
more than four inches from the top since the exhibit's opening. By the time the
show closes, the ants may have buried the entire city.
Campopiano sees his city and the ant colony as a metaphor for humanity,
relating the constant ant activities to our own. As he notes, "It's really not
the ants that will be observed -- the museum visitor is also Under the
Volcano." To this end he has aimed two video cameras at the installation, which
viewers can control; there's a third camera pointed at visitors. These
real-time images can be seen on monitors at the museum's entrance and also on
line at http://remo.net/volcano. Is this art? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Call (781) 259-8355.