Monday, March 2, 2015

"Re:Purposed" at The Ringling, Part 1 -- Jill Sigman

I love being an arts correspondent for Florida Weekly.  It gives me the opportunity to meet all sorts of interesting people and get the inside scoop on terrific cultural events going on in our area. Recently, my editor and friend Kathy Grey asked if I would be interested in going to the press briefing for the "Re:Purposed" exhibit at the Ringling.  Hmm, let me think. YES!!!!  It was an amazing morning of art and conversation.

Curator Matthew McLendon gave us a quick overview of the exhibit, which is an extension of Marcel Duchamp's concept of using every day items to create art. Here, though, the artists have deliberately used materials destined for (or already in) the waste stream. When I first read about the exhibit, I was afraid it would be similar to shows I've seen where a literal pile of trash is put into a bag and declared to be art.  (I try and be open-minded and view modern art as a progression, etc., etc., but this is stretching it for me.)  The art in "Repurposed," though, is beautiful and thought-provoking and, in some cases, downright fun.

There are three "entry points" into the exhibit:  Identity (how we construct what we want people to think of us through objects), Index (narrative associations of objects) and Environment (you've got this one). With this background in mind, we then had the chance to meet two participating artists in the exhibit -- Jill Sigman and Emily Noelle Lambert.

Jill Sigman and Hut #10
Jill Sigman's work involves the creation of site-specific huts, and she was still hard at work on the structure being installed in the final room of the exhibit.  The hut is the tenth in her series, with previous locations including Troy, New York to Oslo, Norway. 

The process of creating the huts is fascinating. All the materials come from the community in which the hut is being created.  The final product is a reflection of both how the community lives and what it casts off. For Hut #10, Sigman collected materials on site from the Ringling, the Asolo and the Sarasota Ballet that were destined for the trash bin. And so the floor of the hut is a platform from the icons of fashion exhibit while the sides and roof contain pieces of old circus tents and exhibit banners and toe shoes adorn the entrance. 

Sigman also gathered materials from other organizations in the area (like the bromeliad from Selby Botanical Gardens). And, of course, she trolled the streets on trash day and hit the local recycling facility for items that could be put to use.  (In case the mere thought of this makes you start scratching, all materials incorporated into the hut are treated to ensure they are hygienic.  Each item--including plant products--was vacuumed, quarantined for a week and then frozen to -20 degrees celsius before being brought into the museum. McLendon commented that this was part of the "fun adventure of contemporary art.")  

While Hut #10 is fascinating to study on its own, it is also being put to use during the show.  One day Jill served tea to visitors to the museum. On Saturday, March 28, she will participate in a study day about the Re:Purposed exhibit with a "movement performance that connects her site-specific installation of her Hut #10 to our private archaeologies of things thrown away. her own personal history and The Ringling Grounds."  (Sigman is a multi-disciplinary artist whose primary work is as a choreographer.)  Click here for more info about the study day. 

In case you're wondering, once the show closes, Hut #10 will be broken down and disposed of.  To Sigman, this is as much a part of the project as the collection. To the extent possible, the materials will be recycled rather than put into the waste stream.   To learn more about Sigman's Hut Project, click here.  

Next up is a post about chatting with artist Emily Noelle Lambert about her contribution to "Re:Purposed." Stay tuned!

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