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Sheri Wills to exhibit 'Nature Morte'
at Flanagan Campus Art Gallery
Jan. 18, 2011
Sheri Wills, professor of art and director of the film/media program at the University of Rhode Island, will present “Nature Morte” at the Community College of Rhode Island’s Flanagan Campus Art Gallery from Jan. 24 to Feb. 18. A reception will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 16.
“Nature Morte” is an integrated collection of projection pieces intended for a gallery space that together combine to explore ideas of lost memory and the everyday. Wax, both a fine art medium and a material on which to record, is one of the connecting elements in this show.
Illuminated wax tablets – rear screen video projected on 6-by-8-inch watercolor paper and linen thread, dipped in beeswax, within a 9-by-12-by-36-inch fabric covered pedestal – speak to the wax tablets of ancient Greece and Rome. Used for pragmatic record-keeping and quick notes, a wax tablet could easily be erased, as opposed to more important records that were carved into stone.
An early audio recording medium, wax cylinder recordings were the first commercially produced sound recordings. They create a snapshot of the daily life of those in the decades around the turn of the 20th century who recorded the small details of their day with what was, at the time, the newest technology. Two anonymous sound recordings from wax cylinders comprise a primary part of the soundtrack to “Nature Morte.”
The still life, as an art historical genre, is another thematic element of the exhibition. Historically less respected than the “grand manner” painting of historical, religious and mythic subjects, the still life depicts inanimate subject matter – typically commonplace, domestic objects – in keeping with the shifting attitudes of the Renaissance, placing importance on the individual.
Wills interprets the still life as a diptych of flower pieces – each two minutes, shot on 16mm film, transferred to Blu-ray and projected on suspended sheets of Mylar. One image depicts a classical vase of flowers in a common kitchen setting. A refrigerator, covered with newspaper clippings, takes up much of the background. The slight jitter of the film, as it shuttled through the camera and then through a projector, seems to provide the only movement in the film. However, a closer viewing reveals light shifts and even a brief appearance of a person opening the refrigerator.
Coupled with the relatively formal flower still life in the diptych is a subjective view of a similar flower arrangement. Instead of placing the camera on a tripod, this 16mm film footage is shot handheld, full of idiosyncratic motion and using a pinhole, instead of a lens. The image may be blurred, but the attention on the subject maintains an obsessive, highly personal focus. The overall effect is energetic, evoking a pre-language understanding of the flowers.
Wills’ work has been exhibited around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the London Film Festival and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, and is featured in the Rizzoli book, “Sonic Graphics: Seeing Sound,” by Matt Woolman. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in filmmaking and a Master of Arts degree in art history, theory and criticism, both from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Her collaborations include video projects with music composed by Bright Sheng, Jan Jirásek, Charles Norman Mason and Offer Ben-Amots and video performances with music ensembles including the Providence String Quartet, Luna Nova New Music Ensemble and Ensemble QAT in Montreal.
The gallery is located in Room 2420 on the first floor at CCRI’s Flanagan Campus, 1762 Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Admission to the reception and exhibition is free, and the gallery is handicapped accessible. For information, e-mail gallery director Tom Morrissey.