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Etsuko Ogura Freeman is of Japanese descent and conveys her cultural and Buddhist belief systems openly in the installation. We are all familiar, to some extent, with the oriental tradition of ancestor worship. This exhibit is about family and ancestors.
In RTUAL-CEREMONY-IMMORTALTY, the observer passes through the metal gates of the Alvin Gittins Gallery and enters a sacred burial site. Incense wafts in the air, the lighting is minimal, the objects are serene as if at meditation. There is no conflict here, only peace and beauty. The viewer is silently called upon to slow down and enter the site in reverence.
The installation is carefully arranged and orchestrated. A flowing “river” of crushed gray stone meanders across the central axis of the space. It represents a River of Time. The first groups of objects encountered at the head of the river are three Haniwa Figures sculpted in terracotta. Haniwa figures are ancient Japanese funerary figures used to protect the dead. They were included in burial sites, before Buddhism was introduced, to depict familiar things relating to the deceased in order to ease the transition between life and death. The figures represent a child and mature male and female personages.
Placed within the river are eight Ancestors, depicted by heavily textured stoneware bark slabs and slip cast porcelain wood textured slabs. Freeman chooses wood to represent her ancestors because the tree is felt to be the oldest living thing and has the most spiritual energy. Placed on and adjacent to the ancestors are leaves, persimmons, and lotus roots, indicating the particular season of an ancestor’s passing. |0| Leaves also represent the passage of the seasons. While the ancestors are anonyms to the observer, they are depictions of actual relatives of Freeman. She has carefully chosen the clay bodies, textures and firing techniques used for each piece to represent their personalities, genders, ages and personal histories.
The viewer encounters three burial mounds along the path of the river. The river connects the mounds in time and signifies the association of the recently departed to those who died in the past. The mounds consist of rich, dark brown soil, ringed by hand woven reeds. The first mound has several slip cast porcelain wood textured slabs featuring carefully brushed Japanese calligraphy. |1| The second mound features both slip cast porcelain wood textured slabs with script and slip cast porcelain root forms. The root forms suggest ancient bones exposed by the erosion of wind and rain and long bleached by the sun. |2| The third mound exhibits slip cast porcelain bone shapes, which are smaller than the previous, symbolically having been exposed to the elements longer and thus reduced in size.
Alongside the river on the west gallery wall is a large slab of wood. This represents a prayer, which serves to ease the sorrow of the dead and offer hope for eternal life.|3|
Along the east wall is a row of four sculptures representing seasonal offerings. The first is Persimmons, an autumn offering. |4| Next is Eggplants, a summer offering. |5| Then, Bamboo Shoots, a spring offering. And finally, Lotus Roots, a winter offering.|6|
These sculptures consist of the vegetation forms placed on large hand-built stoneware slabs supported by segmented bark textured cylindrical pedestals. The pedestals depict tree trunks. The segments, while inherent in the hand-built construction technique could also represent seasonal growth. The offerings are well formed and glazed with rich green, purple, mottled browns, orange, and stony gray glazes.
At the end of the river is an altar with an incense burner against a paper screen background.|7| The incense burner consists of a chocolate brown hand-formed bowl, supported by the same brown clay used to sculpt intertwined tree branches.
Adjacent to the altar, is a Karashishi, consisting of a large gnarled tree trunk arranged with flowers and leafed branches. The Karashishi represents a guardian, complementing the altar and enhancing the whole installation.
Another Karashishi is placed at the opposite end of the gallery space and consists of a floral arrangement on a slab-built sculptural base.
After seeing all the pieces, and being in the burial site for a time, the viewer becomes saturated with the aura of the place. A sense of calm and well-being permeates the air. One feels meditative and serene. The aesthetic experience is very strong. One is compelled to linger in quiet solitude and ponder the mystery and miracle of life.
Freeman says, “Everything that has a shadow goes back to dust. I’m interested in what happens to that dirt afterwards it goes into plants and trees. It is a continuation of life that is being expressed through my work”.
The exhibit is well conceptualized and well executed, and works as an integrated whole. The gallery space is well suited for the installation. The brick flooring, textured green sidewalls, exposed concrete structural columns and concrete and wood ceiling all lend to the natural and organic.
Ritual-Ceremony-Immortality serves as a good example of what a thematic art show should provide to the viewer.
Kent Rigby is a sculptor and president of the Salt Lake Gallery Association.
by Shawn Rossiter
Alternative Venue: Salt Lake
Fellow bibliophiles may recall the Marginalia Bookstore, on the 800 block of 100 South in Salt Lake. The front part of the store was filled with stacks of well-selected used books. The bookstore continued into a darker, more intimate space in the back, with cashier and reading spaces. But unless you remember the exterior well, you probably wouldn't recognize the place now.
Some years ago, the bookstore closed; and though its loss meant one less place for books, its transformation gave me one more venue for my other love -- art.
David Richardson and Capitol Hill Construction took over the building and transformed the space. They created low lying walls to form cubicles for working areas, but the space now is airy, light, and deceptively large. Perfect, in other words, for hanging artwork. Which is exactly what they have done. Mild mannered architecture firm by day, Exhibition space on Gallery Stroll nights and by appointment.
Richardson is a fan and patron of the arts and enjoys using the space to promote local Utah artists.
Gallery 814, as the architecture firm's alter ego has been dubbed, has been hanging artwork since December of 2001. Richardson's tastes tends towards modern art, and he likes to provide an alternative space for alternative artists. While the cubicle spaces require pieces not too grand in scale, the front area does allow for some larger pieces, including, at times, sculpture.
Gallery 814's shows generally hang for eighty days and take advantage of the SLC Gallery Associaiton Gallery Stroll night for their openings. Richardson says they are eager to accept exhibition proposals from artists.
Currently showing at Gallery 814 are two artists with extraordinary pedigree, Tom Kass and Claudia Pollard. Kass is a graduate of Cooper Union at it's post-war height and studied under Joseph Albers. "His serious work is an extension of Albers' studies, " Richardson says. "And his playful work is just plain fun. Pollard is a graduate of Cranbrook and specializes in textiles, she also works on canvas and in sculpture. Both have won international awards.
Gallery 814 is located at 814 East 100 South, SLC. The gallery is open during the firm's business hours, Mon. thru Fri. 9-5, and by appointment (801-533-0204).
Public Art: Salt Lake City
In Memory of a Memorial
by Shawn Rossiter
For the Memorial Day which has recently passed, we'd like to acknowledge the service of our country's patriots by recognizing a Memorial to the soldiers who have fallen in Iraq.
Like me, over the past year you may have driven past the Unitarian Church on 1300 East (600 South) in Salt Lake City and noticed, out of the corner of your eye, the purple drapes hanging on the fence in front of an odd looking garden. If you were fortunate enough to be curious enough, you will have found out that the garden with the purple drapings is an Iraq Memorial, created by two local artists, Dave Starks and Stan Roberts. Starks, a Vietnam vet and sculptor, and Roberts, a raku potter, began the project in April of 2004 to commemorate the fallen American soldiers in Iraq.
If you are a regular reader of the Catalyst, you will be familiar with the stick project from Hancey Duffy's October 2004 article. The artists began decorating sticks to honor each soldier who has died in the war. Local artists and concerned citizens have helped Starks and Roberts create additional sticks as the death toll has continued to escalate.
The Iraq Memorial is coming down this week to make space for a garden to be planted by the nearby Day Care.
If you can drop by while the purple drapes are still up, it will be worth your time. If you've missed the Memorial, we have provided some shots of the hundreds of sticks made by artists to commemorate the soldiers.
Artists of Utah appreciates the efforts of Stark, Roberts et al to create a public art memorial. Artists of Utah will be embarking on a new project to compile a map of public art in communities across the state. We will be running a regular feature on public art, whether it be a sculpture commisioned for a trax stop, some zany person who decides to hang art on their house, or a community effort to honor, protest or celebrate . Are you interested in being involved in this project? We need people to help us coordinate the project, take pictures, and write the features. Please write us with "Public Art Project" as the subject at: email@example.com