IN THE GALLERY & ON THE TRAILS
MAY – AUGUST 2017
Fourteen artists extended our art gallery onto the trails in the summer of 2017, with works that responded to their installation site, exploring concepts of placemaking, reused materials, and natural-unnatural sound. These works, both indoors and on the trails, were created as part of Art in the Open, a public art program in which selected artists create their work on the Schuylkill Banks for three days in May. Visitors enjoyed artist talks, light refreshments in the gallery, a guided walk to the outdoor installations, and site-specific performance at the reception. An opening reception took place on May 24, 2017, and the exhibition was on view until August 12, 2017.
Artist featured in this show included:
- Aaron Asis
- Jane Carver
- Oki Fukunaga
- Mary Olin Geiger
- Elizabeth Hoy
- Cayla Lockwood
- C. Pazia Mannella
- Heather McMordie
- Angela McQuillan
- Sarah Peoples
- Leah Reynolds
- Marian (Stasiorowski) Howard
- Katie VanVliet & Samuel Cusumano
Mary Olin Geiger
These forms explore the nests built by urban bird species that include discarded, scavenged materials such as plastic bags, string, yarn, wire, and plastic wrappers. Made big enough for a person to sit in, they attempt to start a conversation between people, the stuff we throw away, and the animals who use this material in unexpected ways.
Marian (Stasiorowski) Howard
Intersection, 2017 was inspired by the Art in the Open event that took place at The Schuylkill River Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA in May 2016. This photo-sculpture defines the types of landscape in which the Art in the Open event asked its participants to focus on, the urban and the natural. It is the visual and physical manifestation of the “intersection” where these two types of landscape meet. This piece was created by assembling structural lumber into a 5’ cube and building semi-transparent walls on three sides of the cube with Polaroid photographic emulsions.
The subject of the Polaroid emulsions is the Schuylkill River Bank Park and the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. The Schuylkill River Bank Park depicts the urban landscape of Center City Philadelphia, while the Schuylkill Center portrays the natural landscape located on the outskirts of Center City Philadelphia. The images were taken over the course of a year and document the identity and character of both locations. The intention of this sculpture is to elicit contemplation, educate the viewer about these diverse environments, and address the impermanence of nature, the malleability of space, and the potential of the two-dimensional image.
This Is Not Soil is an extension of a current theme in my studio practice and a larger installation called “The Meaning of Everything, Part I” in which I have begun to assign meaning to everything in hopes of understanding the world in which I live. The materiality of the piece is minimalist as it is simply a large pile of “soil”. This “soil” ironically appears very realistic, but is actually a prop. This is Not Soil is a sculptural trompe l’oeil, but not merely for the desire of trickery. I am interested in man-made representations of nature, and I am searching for the meaning, symbolism and metaphor therein. Of course, Magritte’s The Treachery of Images is the initial inspiration for this 3-dimensional image of “soil,” from which I then look to nature for a fabricated reality. I am fascinated with the theatricality of nature and enjoy a playful camaraderie with imitation and impersonation in my work.
Heather McMordie: “Life Forms” series
Life Forms and the other prints made during Art in the Open are an exploration of the relationship between soils and the life they sustain.
During the three days of Art in the Open 2016, plant and soil textures found along the Schuylkill River were pressed and pasted into collograph printmaking plates. In the year since, those plates have been proofed, editioned, and worn down to an unprintable level. These unprintable plates became the foundations for new paper sculptures based on plant life along the Schuylkill River. Proofs of We Made This became vibrant, intertwining plant shapes. Each sculpture represents one of the five factors contributing to soil development, and directly references specific Schuylkill River plant life.
Sam Cusumano & Katie VanVliet
During the collaborative performance event in May 2016, Sam Cusumano and Katie VanVliet collected bio data from weed trees growing from the sides of the Waterworks, via two electrodes on plants’ leaves. We translated the data to an EKG machine to print the fluctuations in conductivity. During the performance, the tape was allowed to flow out of the machine and into the wind, collected and curling upon itself. Based on Cusumano’s previous biodata sonification work, the same data was converted to MIDI and driven through a synthesizer to create music.
At the Schuylkill Center, guided by our individual interests and ways of working, we revisit the products of our 2016 performance by reassembling data documents into new interactive objects. Mechanisms are custom built by Sam, and arranged into a macroscopic sculpture by Katie. This project is our first collaborative work, and it echoes how we collaborate at home. Prompted by found objects or domestic ideas presented by Katie, Sam creates new technology to bring them to life in a new and unusual way. We hand the work back and forth, relying on each others’ strengths.
This piece explores ways of perceiving the built environment and overlooked landscapes, painting as a medium, and environmental destruction and renewal. I paint on location at EPA designated Superfund sites in Philadelphia, New York, Vermont, and Maine. As defined by the EPA, a Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.
The Superfund sites where I work are often overlooked and considered dangerous or repulsive. At most sites, there is no border or fence to designate where the land officially becomes too polluted. My work examines these sites through layers and filters of communication and perception, each step of my processes builds a visual game of telephone where the viewer is the last ear. By creating a visual record of these sites, I begin the process of acknowledging their existence and asking questions about how we should consider these places.
How do we look at these landscapes? How can we see them differently? What is the relationship between the cause of the pollution, the artist’s lifetime of consumption, and the discarded elements that make up the sculptures? Based on my observation of these landscapes, I construct miniature tableaux with playful, unexpected juxtapositions from discarded objects, scraps of fabric, and my own paintings. Wire and string re-create the drawn line, while recycled debris mimics the color palette of the paintings, building three-dimensional dioramas that the viewer can look into and walk around.
C. Pazia Mannella
Contemporary and historical textile patterns, embroidery and garment designs are the inspiration for my work. Intense rainbow and neon colors vibrate in my work. The symbolic imagery of flowers, laurels, and wreaths represent cultural ideals of power, wealth and will. The splendors of historical textiles exhibit the maker’s patience and skill. I feel we live in a material world, however, we have lost the necessity and desire to create because of the availability of disposable goods that are industrially made. I reflect upon contemporary industrialization and global outsourcing of material processes impacting the environment.
In the early 1800s, microscopes grew in popularity and “Victorian Microscope Slides” began emerging as an important staple in one’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Diatoms were some of the first minute life forms observed with early microscopes, and they were usually arranged in elaborate patterns and mounted on a slide for viewing. These beautiful and highly skilled arrangements of tiny organisms inspired my Pond Scum series.
I’ve always been fascinated by the complexity of life that happens under the surface, hidden to the eye. When you look at a natural body of water, you don’t notice the billions of tiny organisms buzzing around right in front of your eyes, all of them essential to the life of the entire planet. I wanted to bring attention to these tiny beings and to bring elements of this micro world into closer view. By organizing the images in this way, I attempt to bring order to nature, and try to display it in a rational way.
To make these images, I collected water specimens from bodies of water on site at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education and imaged diatoms, algae, protozoa and other tiny aquatic life using a microscope with a digital camera attached. After photographing the organisms, I used Photoshop to arrange them into intricate kaleidoscopic patterns, much like the microscope slides from the Victorian era.
Oki Fukunaga: “Hanger Crystals”
On the green near the Visitor Center
I make my art works with a lot of same shape of objects. The shape of objects are artificial so each object express what human beings have made and done, such as civilizations, technologies, knowledges, and cultures. I stack, lay, and stick them one by one. The piece which is made by these actions expresses present time of our world.
Hanger Crystal projects are made out of clothes hangers. Tying hangers together with geometric rule makes new value of daily commodities. While I was working on this project, I noticed it is possible to accomplish something which I can’t do by myself, if I cooperate with someone. These hangers of my projects are exactly like human beings and I realize that I am like a single hanger. I want audiences to enjoy my pieces floating in woods and birds and insects playing in my art works.
Leah Reynolds: “Scant Refuge”
On the Gray Fox Loop
Under the Bridge was installed under the Market Street bridge on the Schuylkill River Banks for Art in the Open 2016. It consisted of three 6 x 12 ft. panels that I had prepared in my studio. Over the course of three days I had planned to cut holes in two of the panels while on site. This would make the material more wind resistant, lighter in weight and bring the view of the train tracks behind it “into” the picture. The gauzy middle panel had the simple outlines of a rowboat and a tent. The imagery refers to homelessness and displacement- whether caused by economics, war or climate change (we experienced both rain and wind over the three days. The bridge offered some shelter- but I could pack up and go home unlike some of the folks who shared it with me). The installation had a second life as the backdrop for a production of “The Vagina Monologues” at the Sedgwick Theatre. For the Schuylkill Center, I made the material into a (very permeable) tent. The outline of a small rowboat emerges from the debris on the ground.
Cayla Lockwood: “Magic Rocks”
On the Widener Trail
I’m interested in common, everyday magic. Carefully balanced and intricate processes that make up our ecosystem—that make up our society. Our cells work together to make a body just like we work together to make a community. The magic is in caring for one another. It’s in working together to make a world that everyone can live in and benefit from. What other powers do we have yet to be unlocked? Are we storing energy that is yet to be utilized? Are rocks just sitting around storing energy for when the time comes to use their power? I don’t know, I’m not a geologist.
Aaron Asis: “Sau Pines”
In the Pine Grove
Sau Pines is a temporary installation designed to demarcate the distinct nature of the Pine Grove and highlight a planted contrast within a naturally occurring context. A series of corded wraps will colorize each planted foundation within the Pine Grove to highlight the field of pines within their contrasting context. This accentuated visual field will prompt visitor inquiry into both the historic and horticultural significances of the Pine Grove. Additionally, a series of matching dimensional pine timbers will be situated throughout the Grove and made available for public use and relocation – as an alternative to the natural material currently used. This combination of colored tree wraps and color matching dimensional timbers will highlight the anomaly of the Pine Grove and encourage general wandering to pronounce the threshold between naturally occurring and systematically planted landscapes.
The lyrics in traditional Bulgarian songs are often are riddled with contradiction, double entendre, and allegory. In the song Ima Nema, women chat about whether Jovanitza is knitting socks for a secret boyfriend or for herself. Two sides contend, it is, it is not; ultimately, the opposing truths are equally present. This occurs in Vurba Ima, Vurba Niama, in which a bride who has had to leave her home behind, says there is a willow tree, there is not a willow tree. The tree stands, but not on St. Lazarus Day when she is not home to see the girls dance. In Dilmano Dilbero, the choir explains to a newly married couple how to plant peppers (put it in, push it in). In Bre Petrunko, a young woman attends a dance and a young man tramples on her flowers and dirties up her shoes, leaving her angry and disappointed.
These are songs I have loved for a long time, and began studying formally and performing under the direction of Vlada Tomova in her NYC Bulgarian choir Yasna Voices. I now sing with Svitanya, a choir specializing in Eastern European song in Philadelphia.
Having the opportunity to share these traditional songs, in addition to original compositions and soundscapes, in the setting of The Schuylkill Center is an extraordinary experience. It is a special and beautiful place, an incredible resource and a refuge from the city. But it is part of the city, too, and offers its own contradictions and metaphors for those who come to wander. The concepts of Nature and Truth have similar implications. To examine either one indicates a separation from it, as though we are not part of Nature, as though our individual realities are not grounded in Truth.
By engaging contradiction, symbolism and a real awareness of the daily rituals and difficulties in life, something magical occurs. All of a sudden, we are present with others who are present. The song becomes a lattice among paradoxes, and magnifies the scope of everyday moments throughout the ages to clarify our connections with one another and our universe.