AMY STACEY CURTIS @ SANFORD MILL
“No running. Notice where the exits are located. Enter at your own risk,” are unlikely messages to be associated with an art exhibit, but these are some of the instructional messages that greet visitors to “Light,” Amy Stacey Curtis’s sprawling solo exhibition. Curtis is known for her interactive installations and for exhibiting her work in the open, window-lit spaces of Maine’s historic mills, such as Sanford Mill (formerly Millstone Place) in Sanford, Maine.
“Light” is free of the space constraints of a gallery or museum, but almost risks getting lost in the stark, open floor plan of the Mill. Two walls of nearly floor to ceiling windows showcase too well the green tree lined landscape, distracting visitors, and becoming a presumably unintentional part of the experience.
But, the wise placement of “Modulation I” anchors the space with its installation in the middle of the large room. “Modulation I,” is dramatic and visually appealing with its 8,118 tin cans arranged in a circle. Each can is lined with computer generated paper printouts of the color spectrum. As visitors move around the twenty-one foot diameter circle their changing perspective/position reveals the different colors in the spectrum.
“Channel I” is equally fascinating. The seemingly banal, cardboard tube structure becomes magical. As visitors move side to side and closer towards the installation a circle of light behind the tubes becomes smaller and smaller and follows the participants’ lateral movements. Since the Batman signal is not hidden behind the installation, the non-scientific viewers among us are left to ponder how this effect is achieved.
But, “Channel II” and its 220 foot row of cardboard building tubes is the least stimulating piece, despite its impressive size. The cardboard exterior of the tubes does nothing to enliven the space. The large tubes are strung from the ceiling, end to end, with a three inch space left between them. The purpose is to view the seventeen rings of light down the length of the tube--- if one can see that far.
Instead of saving the best for last, Curtis grabs her viewers at the door. “Visage,” is by far the most compelling of the nine installations. In a separate, small room two projectors sit beside one another, one reflecting a computer generated composite image of the faces of 99 meaningful people in Curtis’s life. The blending of the individual faces into one, visually symbolizes Curtis’s underlying artistic philosophy that we are all connected.
The other projector streams light through nine overlays at a time, which visitors select and place in front of the projector, each overlay featuring one of the 99 faces. The result is another composite portrait of a person that does not exist and never will, except in that moment. The fleetingness of this installation is haunting.
“Visage” is the most personal of all of Curtis’s exhibits, not just for its implicit “introduction” to Curtis’s closest friends and family members, but the intimacy of the space itself and how it enhances the sense that you are interacting with the artist and her friends and family.
Although, not as physically interactive as some of Curtis’s exhibitions, “Light” is as mentally engaging as any. Curtis’s exhibits urge visitors to explore the world around them and recognize the connectivity of humanity and the unity of mankind. The installations require visitors to interact and think. Math and science people probably understand and experience the exhibit on one level, while art-oriented people understand and experience it on another. Yet, everyone is sure to leave with one central thought--—How does she [Curtis] think of these things?
"Light" is on view from October 4-24, 2008 at Millstone Place (Sanford Mill), 4th floor, 72 Emery Street, Sanford, ME. Opening: October 4th, 2-5pm.
All images are courtesy of the artist.