Review: BCC exhibition is both evocative, soothing
By Keith Powers
October 05, 2013
The Bedford Standard-Times
History gets lost, unless it's remembered. Or buried, unless it's unearthed.
The work of two very different artists, overlapping thematically so as to examine the past and our relationship with it, come together to form one installation that is currently on view at the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Gallery on the Bristol Community College campus in Fall River.
Titled "this bright morning," by fabric artist Charlotte Hamlin, and "per/severance," by composer Mary Edwards, the installations link visitors through textures of the ear and eye to what has gone before us.
The exhibition greets visitors with unapologetic simplicity. Hamlin's textile work hangs suspended above; Edwards' 14-minute synthesized track fills the room with sound. Some spare thoughts from the artists hang on the walls. Little else.
But the backstory reads rich, and visual and aural evocations surge to the mind almost immediately.
Hamlin's sculptures are tree roots, seen from below, suspended from the ceiling, about a dozen in all, crossing the rectangular gallery in an orderly row of pairs. They emerge from a wall at one end, and disappear into the opposite wall, suggesting an continuous walkway. (The design approximates an allée, or stylized path, according the artist's personal notes. The cloth was fabricated in a traditional Korean process called Bojagi.) The roots are earth-tone organza fabric, stretched over a frame that looks like a root system. The shape of a stump is visible above. But the visitor is clearly underground. Buried perhaps, but in fertile soil. Her title, "this bright morning," must be ironic.
Edwards' sound architecture has its own story, but the naive impression is of an endless loop, with the perpetual ostinato of running water accompanying. When listened to carefully on a headset, the composition has a beginning and end, and a kind of dramatic crescendo at the apex. But its overall impression is cyclical, repetitive, and soothing.
The composer explains elsewhere that the sounds are inspired by the history of the Quequechan River, which once defined Fall River (its name in Wampanoag means "Falling River") by having its strength co-opted to power the textile industry. Hundreds of changes have befallen the Quequechan, changing its course, diminishing its power and altering its appearance, in the past couple centuries. But Edwards' tape loop does not try overtly to criticize any insensitive human encroachment on nature, or nostalgically ache for lost truth. It simply remembers.
Under the roots of Hamlin's tree-lined walkway, buried in thoughts driven by Edwards' soundscape, the sense of belonging emerges. Alive now, looking back at the past, we can feel apart from history, as if somehow the now were different than the then. Maybe that feeling is true, in some ways.
But more likely, what was happening then, before these trees above us took root, back in the time when the Quequechan flowed noisily without encumbrance through the land that became downtown Fall River more likely that time was much like this time. This exhibition does not confront us with the past, or attempt to stir up feelings of guilt or anger. It engages the past, and encourages our link to it. We remember it, and we will be remembered. We forget it, and we can be forgotten.
Keith Powers is an art and music writer who lives in Rockport.
Listen to per/severance here:
Original article published 5 October 2013 can be found here.