‘Fragments from the Garden:’ an intricate installation by Kevin GreelandBottom Highlights, The Arts Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Local artist and teacher Kevin Greeland has been working on a large project for quite some time. I know this because he has periodically asked me to make some test prints of a self-portrait painted with a tea bag. Yes, a tea bag. The first attempts were a bit muddy, but the final three “drawings” were just right. The portraits are nice and simple, but not necessarily true. The bearded faces are considerably more severe than the real Kevin Greeland who is a genial guy and ever smiling. But the tea bag effect is pleasing; it’s a brush stroke somewhere between bold and watery.
These large portraits (along with many smaller leaflet-size replications) are just one element of Fragments from the Garden, Greeland’s intricate installation that fills the Art Department Galley and class space on Ray Street. Like many of you I have done Ray Street a number of times through the years and I’ve enjoyed several exhibitions of student work at the Art Department, one of the larger and more permanent spaces on the narrow lane in the heart of North Park. Never before, however, have I experienced an exhibition that has made me experience the space with a fresh set of eyes. This one did.
There are two reasons for this. First, Greeland somehow got permission to paint over the generic off-white walls with a royal shade of purple. This bold gesture is striking. It makes the expansive room cozy, it draws you in and it primes viewers for an intimate experience of Greeland’s Garden world.
The second reason why the Art Department space came alive for me on the opening night of the show was because of an unexpected performance taking place inside the large storefront window right next to the entrance. Music filled the exhibition space but the two women taking part in the performance remained silent except for their shuffling and moving and other improvisational gestures. I arrived just as shoes were being moved and thrown, assembled and reassembled on the gallery floor. It was weird and grabbed my lazy attention as soon as I entered. Performance art does that. It sneaks up on you in improbable places. Whether you like it (or understand it) or not, it is always arresting and so was this.
From there you enter Greeland’s unearthed garden of delights.
Fragments from the Garden closes with Ray at Night April 13 (6-10 p.m.) and I urge you to stop by. The performers will be back, as well as the music and the purple walls will still be there. So too will Greeland, possible wearing a bow tie. He’ll have a twinkle in his eye and will happily explain his process in his rhythmic Southern lilt. But don’t rush in and out. This is a small exhibition with many details and set pieces all of which are worth savoring. Greeland has imagined, excavated and presented an array of interesting fragments, from small gophers popping out of sand to a pile of small skulls to an intricate shrine dedicated to the face and fluids of a number of handsome men.
I’ll leave you on that note because I am sure it captured your attention. I hope to see you there.
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