Art, Elevated: Local, unique works showcased at 21C

Art, Elevated: Local, unique works showcased at 21C
April Wallace

When Danielle Hatch was setting up her photographic shot “My Body Was a Lonely House” that would be used in the Elevate installation series at 21C Museum Hotel, her 10-year-old was stepping onto the school bus and faced a question from his peers: “What’s that thing on your house?”

The true answer — beyond a shrug and “just another one of mom’s projects” — is that it was an enormous slip cover that covered the entire well house on Hatch’s property. In the resulting digital image, Hatch herself is in a dress connected to it so that it looks like a single — albeit gigantic — petticoat.

“I was imagining turning the female body into a house,” says Hatch, who is one of three local artists featured in this summer’s “Elevate” series, for which each artist activated a small boxed space next to the elevators of the hotel. “I was interested in how we create identity through domestic spaces. Many decisions we make wrap our identity up in home design and place-making within our homes (so) I was interested in the home as an extension of the human body and the identities we create for ourselves.”

The slip cover is 10 feet by 12 feet, took three months of sewing and, oddly enough, began as a trial run for something even larger. The digital photograph is displayed at the center of the exhibit space, placed just far enough back to make it seem small in relation to the massive, hot pink quilted frame, which itself measures in at 12 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet. Hatch worked with local quilt shop Sew and Sew out of Pea Ridge to create that part.

“It’s meant to draw people in and make them touch and feel it,” Hatch says. “I use technical fabrics like (what you’d use for) sleeping bags, hammocks and tents, and they have an all-weather feel. So even though they’re presented in feminine, frilly display, the material is sturdy and weatherproof. I liked that tension.”

Danny Baskin, who curated this exhibit, says 21C in Bentonville features a few regional artists every six months or so through Elevate. This time, the pairings of works are “very much about craft practices that are more based in installation and a little outside the norm of craft practice.”

While Hatch’s is a textile work and installation, Sarah Turner’s work is glass and neon, but created as a sculpture rather than a sign, and Linda Lopez’s ceramics are sculptures, not bowls. Each artist gets a large vitrine on a small room roughly 10 by 6 feet.

They get these “boxes to create a world with them,” Baskin says. “Danielle does these … huge fabric installations that reference formal feminine dresswear from ages past and put it in conversation with architecture.”

Placing the two together brings attention to the history of female dress, what it means to be a woman and how those definitions are changing in relation to current conversations, he says.

“The conversation of gender right now relates to this work,” Baskin says. “It shows this history subdued and held back in a variety of ways. (Through the image of the dress) it’s looming over, like kudzu, scary and powerful, important and strong, but also pink, frilly, wiggly and quilted.”

Baskin himself has a degree in sculpture, owned a gallery with his spouse and previously worked at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, but he had never showcased a neon piece until he started working with Sarah Turner. Her resulting installation is a bathtub with a reflection of water and a seed hanging down from the ceiling — all crafted from neon.

“Neon is so particular and scientific, it’s amazing,” Baskin says. Turner is “showing this private, vulnerable space, a bathtub, but showing it in neon is very public.”

The constantly buzzing, moving nature of neon goes against traditional, still and relaxing elements of baths too, making it a work with enough contradicting elements to allow the audience plenty of space to drawn their own conclusions about it.

“Neon is crazy in its conception,” Turner says. “The process of making it is dangerous and difficult. I stand patiently all day, trying to literally bend glass to my will in a fire.”

Turner began working on “Bathed in Light” about a year ago. Some of the Elevate artists create work specifically for the 21C installation, while others choose pieces that they’ve already completed. In Turner’s case, the idea had been swirling around her brain for a while, and Baskin gave her the perfect opportunity to let it out.

Turner uses techniques to pull neon off the wall and often looks for ways to form relationships between light and the body. She thinks of “Bathed in Light” as a sort of portal.

“The bath is something you go into one way and come out another,” she says, speaking of it as a place of contemplation that is quiet but maybe emotionally loaded. “It’s an in-between, just like its contents, an abstraction of cycles: intos, coming-out-ofs and in-betweens.”

The installation has several parts: the bath, the water, the seed and the feet. Turner hopes viewers will hone in on the feet because they are the “only solid form that ground you into reality” and that walking away, the overall effect will provoke some unknown within them.

“For me, this artwork is talking about public versus private and self care and comfort versus what it means to not have that,” Baskin says. “You can take your background and create the meaning for yourself.”

Linda Lopez’s ceramics sit, aquarium-like, in a space painted light purple, while the works themselves vary greatly in color, texture, sheen, size and shape. One on the far left has something like fingers, a funny, wacky object, Baskin says. Others look similar to plants or animals.

“But it’s still this object, this entire world, that’s created through simple shapes and forms, and I absolutely love that,” Baskin says.

Lopez grew up in a bilingual household where words could often be hybridized —a little of this language, a little of that — and Baskin says that’s what she’s doing with her artwork, creating a sort of visual language.

“Her use of color is spectacular,” he says. “They have a language of their own, a playfulness and a sadness to them.”

As guests come through and take notice of the local artists’ work, Baskin hopes that it will elevate their experience at the museum hotel as much as it boosts the artists’ careers. Each one is at a different place in their journey, with some more experienced and others just beginning. Success, he says, could come in many forms, whether viewers buy or appreciate the work or the artists simply enjoy what they’re making.




WHEN — Through September

WHERE — 21C Museum Hotel in Bentonville

COST — Free


Categories: Galleries