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Canoes and Cinderblocks and Cases, oh my! (#1214)

Topics/tags: Grinnellians

Every once in a while [1], I find myself reminded of how fortunate I am to be at Grinnell, primarily because of the wonderful and talented people with whom I work. Today, I had yet another reminder. Perhaps it wasn’t even a reminder I needed.

Today I attended a performance by Jeremy Chen in his current exhibition, Devices, Tools, Objects, & Props. It was wonderful; although there wasn’t narration (beyond a poem he read at the beginning), I felt like I was in the midst of a folk tale. His sculptural works also took on new meanings as he embedded them within his performance.

I must admit that one aspect of the performance made me a bit nervous. One of the pieces in the exhibit includes a cinderblock suspended on a chain and spring. During the performance, Jeremy lay under it. Unfortunately, I’d seen the cinderblock fall during the opening,when someone touched it despite being told not to. I didn’t want to think about an oscillating block [2] dropping on my friend. Fortunately, the connection held.

After the show, I asked Jeremy whether he’d intentionally had the connection break during the opening to increase the tension during the performance. That’s what I would have done. Jeremy denied having done so. I trust him.

I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time with Jeremy. When I was on sabbatical a decade or so ago, I took two courses from him: ART-111, Introduction to the Studio, and ART-242, Sculpture. We’ve also participated in faculty workshops together, and I’ve attended at least two summer workshops on printing that he’s led.

Jeremy also taught me one of the most important things I’ve learned about visiting galleries and museums: Rather than trying to see everything, you should find a few pieces that resonate with you and spend an appropriate amount of time with each. I don’t always succeed in following that advice, but when I do, I find it’s a good approach; I enjoy thinking more carefully about each piece [3].

In any case, I mostly know Jeremy as a teacher and colleague, since those are the contexts in which we most frequently meet. But Jeremy is also a practicing artist. And I haven’t had the opportunity to spend enough time with Jeremy’s art. It was nice to be able to do so [4]. And, as I said, the performance added a new context to the pieces.

I also had the chance to talk to a few other friendly colleagues [5]. It was nice. And, as I said, I was reminded of how fortunate I am to work with such great people. Not just Jeremy but also many others. Still, I feel particularly fortunate to know Jeremy.

Postscript: I’ve written about the cinderblock in the show. What about canoes and cases? Visit the exhibit to learn more.

[1] Perhaps every few days.

[2] Or, more precisely, a no-longer-oscillating block.

[3] Have I mused on that topic? I’ve intended to.

[4] I still haven’t. I need to visit the gallery a few more times before the exhibition ends.

[5] Collegial friends?

Version 1.0 of 2023-02-24.