Examining the Handwerker Gallery’s newest art installation through the eyes of the artists
Starting each academic school year, Ithaca College’s Handwerker Gallery embraces a new theme, connecting a diverse set of exhibitions under a universal term. This year “Shapes of Time” acts as the umbrella to the amalgam of art that will occupy the space.
Mara Baldwin, the gallery’s curator, says part of her inspiration came from The Shape of Time by George Kubler. Through her reading, she noted many questions that Kubler, an art historian examining Mesoamerican objects, explored: “If I’m piecing together a history that has two really different modes of making being done in two places that weren’t even conscious of one another, how can I have these two histories in the same book? How do I write history? How do I describe the passage of time?”
From these points of introspection, time emerges as a rich theme for study. Baldwin also notes that the gallery’s 40th anniversary and Ithaca College’s 125th anniversary were other reasons to bring time into focus. This first phase in the Handwerker lineup features Memorandum by Leslie Brack and Time Breaks Open by Susan Weisend.
Brack explores file cabinets in a series of watercolor portraits that feature different expressions of this commonly used object. She recalls being “surprised at the variations in something we take to be so standardized.” Walking through the gallery, I found that her approach allows us to meet the embodied form of her attentive observation, as each piece harbors elements of individuality and nuance. She exposes both the vulnerability and beauty through the series, employing impressive uses of subtle color.
Brack hopes that those who visit the exhibition will discover an alternative perspective on file cabinets, “maybe letting their gaze fall on them for a second longer, possibly wondering at the vast and forgotten histories we have locked away behind their steel facades.” Brack challenges us to grant our time to the ordinary, to spend a few moments exploring what our eyes have been trained to overlook.
Weisend’s work in Time Breaks Open emphasizes geological structures embedded within earth’s landscape. She believes that the exhibit, “reflects on and celebrates my participation with the landscape” and aims to “drop all assumptions of humanity’s place of privilege in the world.” She hopes viewers will “see all life as valuable.”
As Weisend reflected on her collective work, she was particularly excited by the “fluid” and “relational” aspects of the exhibit. Throughout the creative process, she routinely considered, “how the individual pieces would relate to one another to make one coherent statement.” In reflecting on Weisend’s work, I appreciated how each piece had power in its individualism, yet there was something more poignant about engaging with the relationship between the works. I felt she granted me the liberty to create my own version of the exhibit’s interconnectedness.
As the Handwerker’s curator, Baldwin puts thorough thought into the function of juxtaposition between the exhibits. She believes that the, “sorts of conflicts and comparisons between exhibitions is one interesting thing in having two shows at the same time.” The salient differences between Time Breaks Open and Memorandum inspire us to note relationships that live beneath the surface.
Baldwin unpacks an interesting cross between the content and technique, explaining how, “Susan is thinking about something really Earth made, but her pieces are very manmade. Meanwhile, “Leslie is talking about man made piles of paper,” yet “the earth like quality of the paper takes over the surface because their water colors begin to buckle.”
In talking with Baldwin about her hopes for the Handwerker Gallery’s use on campus, she sees its potential as a “space for gathering.” Spending time in the Handwerker Gallery results in enriching takeaways. With carefully crafted exhibits, students are gifted the tools needed to sharpen their means for critical thinking and observation. Weisend and Brack are only two examples of the many artists that will challenge us to dive deeper into content that frequently lives uncontested.
The Handwerker Gallery hosts a variety of entries into questions about the human experience. Art serves as a digestible medium for us to explore abstract concepts like time with pieces that prompt dialogue. Gathering together on campus couldn’t be more relevant in a time where isolation is frequently provoked by fearful rhetoric. In a grounding space like the Handwerker Gallery, our campus community can begin to explore universal themes of humanity – like time.
Margaret McKinnon is a second year writing major who prefers to finish her assignments in the Handwerker Gallery rather than in the library because she doesn’t like climbing all those stairs. They can be reached at email@example.com.