Artspace New Haven’s new exhibit “Everywhere and Here” features works inspired by objects from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
Journalist and none
Courtesy of Artspace New Haven
Artspace New Haven’s most recent exhibit, “Everywhere and Here,” features works inspired by objects from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.
The exhibition, which runs until November 20, features the work of artists Martha Friedman ’03, Anina Major, Brittany Nelson, Cauleen Smith and Tuan Andrew Nguyen, and was curated by Lisa Dent. Their works are exhibited alongside the masks, fabrics, housewares and meteorites from the Peabody Collection that inspired them. Since the Peabody will remain closed for renovation until 2024, the exhibit allows the public to interact with some of its artifacts, which come from all over the world and even from space.
âThere are different ways to approach the demand – or the opportunity – to sift through a collection of artifacts in a place like the Peabody,â Friedman said. âAnd that’s a very complicated thing to do. Everyone did it a little differently.
The exhibit opened on September 17, nearly three years after Artspace founder Helen Kauder, former Artspace curator Sarah Fritchey, and Peabody Deputy Director of Marketing and Communications Christopher Renton first met. to discuss collaboration between institutions. Initially, Renton said, the project was seen as an opportunity for the Peabody to remain present and visible in the community during its renovation and the closing of the gallery.
Due to the pandemic, artists have been forced to choose their objects and conduct research from a distance, Renton said. They had access to the two million items in the Peabody Collection which are digitally cataloged and accessible on the Peabody website. The managers of the Peabody Collection and the Museum Registrar assisted the artists in this process and provided additional background information on the objects.
Although the Peabody has never collaborated with Artspace before, an important part of its mission is to use its collection to support the arts.
âThe Peabody has a long heritage of connecting art and science,â Renton said. âFrom world-famous murals by Zallinger to more recent works with [American artist] Jacques Prosek, we continue to see tremendous value in facilitating artist engagement with our collections and research.
Friedman, who chose to work with strips of linen wrapping taken from mummies, said it was tricky to make art with old objects like those in the Peabody Collection. As museological practices have evolved over time, objects such as household linen have been treated with more or less respect and disrespect.
For example, newly discovered mummies were often unwrapped at random as grave robbers searched for the amulets inside, Friedman said. Pre-Raphaelite painters even made paint from the remains of mummies, a pigment called âmummy brownâ.
Linen wrappers – which looters once routinely threw aside – fascinated Friedman. The weaves are incredibly intricate, as are the wrapping patterns used to wrap the embalmed bodies in the fabrics, she said. In fact, Friedman said that these wrappers were what made mummies sacred in the minds of the ancient Egyptians.
Friedman’s sculptures consist of glass figures wrapped in rubber bands, a material she often incorporates in her practice. A figure stands next to a pile of rubber wrappers, supposed to look like sheets thrown aside in search of another treasure.
Two other artists have chosen to focus on meteorites from the Peabody collection, rather than objects so strongly associated with human history.
Cauleen Smith’s piece, for example, is inspired by the Allende meteorite, which, according to the release accompanying the installation, is the largest carbonaceous chondrite ever discovered on Earth. The statement further states that before the meteorite entered Earth’s atmosphere, it was about the size of an automobile, but ultimately shattered into thousands of pieces. Smith’s work presents a fragment of this meteorite.
For Friedman, working with meteorites âskips over the issue of cultural authorshipâ associated with man-made objects that have been removed from their place of origin.
âWhen I saw meteorites, I was like ‘meteorites! Clever !’ Said Friedman.
âMeteorites do not belong to any terrestrial nation, nor to any terrestrial people. People belong to the meteorite, âSmith considered in his statement, noting this same lack ofâ ownership â.
Working with objects from such a distant past, Friedman and Smith also envisioned the future.
âWhen you think of the journey traced by the Allende meteorite, you have to consider both time and space; distance and duration, âSmith wrote in an email to News. “The Allende meteorite is a visitor to our cosmic past and perhaps holds keys in its molecular structure for possible futures.”
Friedman said she recently considered an essay by German artist and writer Hito Steyerl who questions whether people make art for future aliens. As she incorporated pieces of gold into the busts of one of her glass sculptures, she is struck by the fragility and the ephemeral of her work. She began to imagine aliens discovering her work years later and began to wonder how they could interpret her art.
âThere are these threads – pun intended – that run through the job and have to do with what is lost over time,â Friedman said. âHow do you engage with what has been preserved and what has been lost? And what is the role of art in the mediation of these spaces? “
Artspace New Haven hosts its annual citywide showcase for two weekends October 15-24