Kat Murrell

Coal, ice and art at Lynden’s Winter Carnival

By - Feb 24th, 2011 04:00 am
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Winter may be gently on its way out, but it’s still being celebrated at the Lynden Sculpture Garden with this weekend’s Winter Carnival, and the opening of the latest Inside/Outside exhibition featuring the work of Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg.

The carnival will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with activities throughout the day. YouSnow, an outdoor sculpture competition, has been organized by Green Gallery’s John Riepenhoff. Other snow themed activities are on the schedule, though subject to revision as the weather warrants. The sculpture grounds will be open for exploring, with guided tours in the morning and afternoon.

Work from Shana McCaw and Brent Budsberg

Occurring simultaneously with the carnival will be the making of McCaw and Budsberg’s Coal-and-ice on the sculpture garden grounds. This work combines installation and performance art within the motif of a Midwestern farmhouse, and functions as a provocative starting point for consideration of time, place, and memory.

The sense of home is strong for Budsberg and McCaw, two Milwaukee artists who are also founding members of WhiteBoxPainters, a performance art group. The image of the iconic Midwestern farmhouse has occurred in various forms in their recent work. (Ed. note: McCaw and Budsberg on the faculty and staff of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, as is author Kat Murrell.)

In this exhibition, the architecture of the farmhouse is referenced inside and outside the gallery space. Large photographs suggest bleak rural ruins with remnants of architecture cast against the blank slate of snow. But look more closely at these photographs; there’s something a bit off about the size and scale, and the reality of what is seen in these images. Small models of houses are perceived as life sized, while a pickax and shovel look like children’s toys in the absence of physical context.

These photographs connect with Coal-and-ice outside, not only through the style of rural domestic architecture, but the use of the pickax and shovel. During the carnival, McCaw and Budsberg will be dressed in late 19th century costumes, digging a shallow trench that describes the perimeter of a house, offering a sharp and purposeful contrast between contemporary fun and archaic labor.

The trench will be filled with charcoal, and as a final gesture, doused with lighter fluid and set ablaze, eventually burning down to ash and smoldering embers. The arc of this performance reaches from the creative act of making this space, to the note of destruction suggested by the spent coal. Though it is newly delineated, a sense of loss and past are suggested. It’s a past that may be imagined, but which never really existed.

The farmhouse imagery has significance for McCaw and Budsberg in the way it recalls with the rural past of their own experiences and families. And these days, houses can have especially complex meanings. As McCaw notes “A house, for a lot of people, symbolizes security and comfort. It also can be, especially in the era that we’re referencing, something that might be passed down through the family lineage. I feel like it’s that, but it can also be the total opposite – total anxiety. These days with people losing their homes to foreclosure, two very separate things are happening, or can be perceived in this symbol.”

As to what it means to them as artists, Budsberg reflects, “I guess, for me, it’s a way of understanding who we are and where we come from. It’s not something that we’ve really set out to understand as much as it is something that has naturally kept emerging in our work.”

Inside/Outside: Shana McCaw + Brent Budsberg opens with a reception on Saturday, Feb. 26 from 4:30 to 6:30pm, after the Winter Carnival. The exhibition continues at the Lynden through April 10. Check the Lynden website for more details on outdoor and studio activities . The event is free to members or with admission to the sculpture garden. Family passes are $15 in advance or $20 at the door.

Categories: Art

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