INSTALL IT 2 would not have been possible without the support of the McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. Museum Director Jane Przybysz overheard me and one of the artists talking about project in the late winter and asked how the museum could get involved. She has since been a tireless supporter of the exhibition and provided invaluable professional expertise which greatly increased the quality of the exhibition.
Here are Jane's thoughts about the impact of the exhibition, which comes to a close May 26. - Jeffrey Day, exhibition curator.
The scene of opening night for INSTALL IT 2 was a community art educator’s dream. At the Rangoli: Giant Bird Feeder, venturesome families with children, couples young and old, and curious clumps of seniors gathered round trying to grasp what in the world was going on. Many were soon on bent knees, flowers or flour in hand, intently focused on adding their own designs to the lot-sized ground painting artists’ Khaldoune Bencheikh and Mary How vision had sketched with colored bird seed and rice to serve as a huge welcoming mat for birds at the heart of the Vista.
At I Have Loved You So Long, artist Michaela Pilar Brown held court to the tune of traffic passing by the loading dock facing Gervais Street that provided the framework for her installation. In moments of relative quiet, she talked about her decision to return to her family’s homeplace in rural South Carolina after years of living in an urban setting. She reflected on how much more time she was now spending in a car on roadways littered with gators—a term truckers use on their CB radios to describe sometimes hazardous tire treads littering the highway.
You could actually sense traffic slow down alongside the Zion Baptist Church where Wendell George Brown had built Ascension—three monumentally-sized, larger-than-life figurative sculptures that paid homage to African American spiritual traditions. The pottery shards and tree branches poking out of earthen-like figures powerfully evoked bottle trees and burial customs African Americans—especially in South Carolina’s low country—have practiced for generations.
As the evening wore on, a small crowd gathered near the alleyway where Kara Gunter had installed Ghost Trees. They were patiently waiting for the sky to darken so they might witness the effect evoked by LED lights Gunter had installed at the base of the white gauzy trees she’d constructed to mourn the loss of real trees in an urban setting.
Perhaps because there was a rock band playing outdoors adjacent to Eileen Blythe’s Seven Doors, there was less conversation about and more observation of the Alice-in-Wonderland, door-like structures she’d created from repurposed industrial materials with Adluh Flour’s building as a backdrop. At one point, my eye was drawn beyond the sculptures through the crack between two parts of the building structure to a spotlit American flag furling and unfurling in the breeze. I couldn’t help but take this fortuitous juxtaposition of the flag and the installation as a positive sign that the spirit of Artista Vista and of Install It 2 embodied the spirit of America, constantly reinventing itself through individual initiative and collective endeavor.