If cared for properly, paintings and sculptures remain relatively static over time. Think of the recently-discovered treasure trove of modern art masterpieces uncovered in a German apartment, long thought lost to Nazi looting. After seventy years in a cabinet, a Chagall is basically the same Chagall.
But ephemeral art is fleeting in nature, and time is an essential medium. The fine art departments at Bellarmine University and Indiana University Southeast have partnered to produce a symposium exploring ephemeral art this week. “Ephemeral Art and Practice” runs Thursday and Friday with exhibits and panel discussions on both campuses. All events are free and open to the public.
The event is co-produced by art professors Brian Harper (IUS) and Tiffany Carbonneau (Bellarmine).
“In the IUS show, all three artists deal with the idea of time, and how we would evaluate time as it evolves and how it affects change in ourselves or other objects in space,” says Harper, who heads up the ceramics program at IUS. “The Bellarmine exhibition is talking about the fleeting nature of ephemeral work.”
Harper and Carbonneau hope the symposium encourages their respective students to “cross-pollinate” between the two art departments.
“The river can be a psychological barrier for a lot of students,” says Harper. “We’re trying to break that down a bit, and encourage students to move back and forth and see what they can learn from each other.”
The symposium opens Thursday, 2:15 p.m., at the Ogle Center at IUS with a panel discussion on “Moments and Methods” featuring artists whose work is exhibited in “The Ephemeral, The Evolving” at the university’s Barr Gallery.
Louisville artist Joyce Ogden (a member of the faculty at Spalding University and Kentucky School of Art) will be joined by Athens, Ohio-based Courtney Kessel and Montreal artist Linda Swanson in a discussion of their work. A reception at the gallery follows at 4:15 p.m.
Harper says Swanson’s installation features water dripping onto natural earth elements – a one-of-a-kind work, since it changes every time Swanson exhibits. Kessel’s piece also changes with each show, as the artist herself sits balanced on a see-saw opposite her nine-year-old daughter and her daughter’s possessions, which change as her daughter grows.
“Performance, by nature, is ephemeral, because it exists only as that act in the gallery,” says Harper. “It’s this beautiful notion of measuring the human scale of time, where [Swanson] is measuring a kind of geologic time.”
Friday’s events take place across the river at Bellarmine, starting with a morning meet-and-greet in Horrigan Hall’s Hilary’s Café at 10 a.m., followed by a curator panel discussion moderated by New Albany’s Carnegie Center for Art and History curator Karen Gillenwater. The panel includes Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft assistant curator Joey Yates, independent curators Ginger Shulick Porcella and Yasmeen Siddiqui.
“We hope the curators can have an open discussion about what it means, for example, for a commercial gallery to show a work that may not exist in the same way if a person was to purchase it,” says Harper.
Artists exhibiting in Bellarmine’s “The Ephemeral, the Fleeting” show – Louisville artist Leticia Quesenberry, Minnesota-based Natalie Tornatore and Lisa Walcott, an installation artist and kinetic sculptor based in Holland, Michigan – will discuss their work at 2:30 p.m. in Hilary’s, with a reception in the university’s McGrath Gallery to follow.
Quesenberry will show photographs that include what Harper describes as “ghost-like images of people.”
“The form is barely there. It’s a photograph that is like a whisper, almost. They look a little bit like they could vanish in front of your eyes,” he says.
It all adds up to a different way of seeing art work, Harper says.
“Oftentimes, in this type of work, you see with your whole body,” he adds.