Connective Creations

Connective Creations

Timeless and timely works tie past to present


With each step the Momentary takes as it continues to settle into its role as a community pillar, new and deepened connections to the past — and the site’s specific history — seem to emerge. Perhaps none is so direct as the new works on the Momentary’s grounds by artists Iván Navarro and Maria Molteni.

“This Land Is Your Land” is Navarro’s series of water towers that immediately calls to mind the iconic Woody Guthrie song of the same name, as well as contemplation on who is invited to take up space in this artistic, cultural and physical landscape. The three structures encourage the viewer to actively engage with the work by looking up into the barrels where neon lighting displays different words and symbols.

Molteni is currently creating a new mural on the north side of the campus that examines a different piece of the Momentary’s past — as the former site of an apple orchard. Both artists’ works are in conversation with the diverse pieces around the grounds while also presenting a new perspective to bridge history with the present.

“The older I grow, the more I’m able to tune into the cycles and say, ‘Oh, we’ve been here before,’” artist Maria Molteni shares of the cyclic nature of the world she has observed. “That can feel discouraging because you’d hope that as a society we could truly progress past some of these ruts. But it also helps you avoid apocalyptic thinking. You can say throughout history, oppressed people have found strength and resilience to pool their power and push back. … nothing is really permanent. But there are constants that sort of transcend the rise and fall of that and can’t be taken away if we can keep a wider perspective on the situation — things like art, love, knowledge, sharing and friendship are our lifelines. We have to invest in them.”
(The Free Weekly/Charlie Kaijo)(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

“At every stop, the piece acquires different meanings, especially outside the U.S. where the water towers are not a familiar object in the landscape,” Brooklyn-based, Chilean artist Navarro says of his work traveling the world. “This Land Is Your Land” comes to Bentonville after exhibition at Chicago’s Navy Pier and at Madison Square Garden in New York City before that.

“There is a common idea that people see in this work, which is how this container can store a message about communal progress,” Navarro continues. “When people see the image of an endless ladder going up or the word ‘ME’ turning into ‘WE,’ their interpretation is a visual poem about how we live together in society, and how we build this society using industrialized materials.

“The context of Bentonville is different in that it belongs to the original U.S. agricultural landscape where the water towers were once seen as beacons of opportunity for itinerant laborers, as they marked the presence of farms and developments along their path.”

“The apple is perhaps one of the richest symbols in the world,” Molteni offers of her own inspiration. “Different people and cultures have all sorts of associations with it. I’m calling in all of those stories and associations, whether it’s sweetness, intoxication, feminine power, knowledge, fertility, wildness.

“I think it’s important to remember that apples, though many Americans have a nostalgic, altruistic association with them, also mask a complexity — both symbolically and biologically as their seeds are so unpredictable and can only be manipulated through external grafting. I appreciate that the apple can further reiterate the lessons of Venus, that there is more than meets the eye — power, attraction and repulsion all wrapped in a nice package.”

Molteni’s painted mural is titled “Venusian Rosaceae (Five Seeded Star)” and draws connections between the core of the apple and the “Dance of Venus” — the description of the five-petaled pattern observed by the planet’s transit through the heavens. Both, Molteni shares, are great examples of what many call “sacred geometry.” The connection of these two phenomenon felt right for the site at the Momentary, she says.

“What began as a student experiment has become a lifelong exploration into the many meanings and uses of light, both materially and conceptually,” reveals artist Iván Navarro. “In this particular case, the use of neon light has to do with optimism. I like to think that you can only read the message of this installation once the neon lights are on. Literally, you can use the expression, ‘I see the light at the end of the tunnel,’ when you are under the towers to look up. The sensorial combination of visualizing a tunnel leading upwards infinitely with the brilliance of the neon clearly proposes a sensation of transcendence.”
(Courtesy Image/Iván Navarro and Kasmin Gallery)

“Venus represents beauty, pleasure and harmony, but also values, relationships, friendships,” Molteni reveals. The artist was also compelled to integrate the “Dance of Venus” in the work because it was during the planet’s retrograde (a challenging and introspective period in astrology) earlier this year that Molteni was invited to collaborate with the Momentary.

“For me, it was clear that the uprisings that broke out during May/June of this wild and difficult 2020 called upon us to review what we value and how we stand up for it, what we do for other people we care about when some of us are able to live more harmoniously than others, and the work it takes to create peace in an imbalanced society. People do need to be reminded that beauty, kindness and pleasure are not frivolous niceties that come easily. Neither is art!”

That concept is also reflected in Navarro’s work as he invokes the idea of home and survival.

“Mainly my reason to invoke Guthrie’s work was to give new meanings to this anthem of the U.S. identity, a song that is very common among people here, very historical as well, but it has never been taken to the contemporary art field,” Navarro muses. “When I take a song to make it part of my artwork, I don’t use it as ‘background music;’ this song is the central element of the project, everything else is interconnected through its lyrics. By fusing the image of the water tower with light and the Utopian message of ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ my intention was to create a symbol of resistance and possibility of inspiration for any seeker, especially for immigrants or the displaced inhabitants of the land.”


Maria Molteni (from left) and Randi Shandroski work on a new mural at the Momentary in Bentonville. The design of interweaving braids has both a feminine and cosmic connotation. The depicted five-pointed star can be found in something as little as the seed pattern of an apple core or as large as the transit of Earth and Venus, Molteni says. (Molteni is also assisted by Reed Wilson, not pictured.)
(The Free Weekly/Charlie Kaijo)

The Momentary

WHEN — 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

WHERE — 507 S.E. E St. in Bentonville

COST — Free

INFO — 367-7500,

Categories: Galleries