To launch its new Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, Macalester art history professor Joanna Inglot turned to internationally known Minneapolis conceptual artist Harriet Bart for a show called "Between Echo and Silence."
Bart's serene sculptures, drawings and book-inspired objects fit the new gallery both aesthetically and philosophically. They are, loosely speaking, about memory and loss, enduring themes that have preoccupied the artist throughout her career.
"Harriet is one of the most distinguished artists working in the Twin Cities, and her pristine designs complement the beauty and simplicity of the gallery," said Inglot. "Also, we are in a time of war and meditating about what that means to us as a country, so her work on war is important for our students."
"Requiem," for example, consists of seven long paper scrolls on which Bart has hand-written the names of more than 4,000 U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq war. Beneath a display of military ID tags, arranged in the silhouette of Afghanistan, another sculpture records the names and death dates of more than 2,000 Americans who have died in the Afghan conflict.
A third piece consists of 160 abstract "drawings" made with candle smoke to represent the garment workers, mostly immigrant girls, who died in a horrific factory fire in New York City a century ago. Again, the victims' names particularize a tragedy that shocked the nation and galvanized efforts to improve workplace safety.
Other works involve poetry, broken words, polished vessels and pendulums -- a recurrent symbol of time, place and rectitude in Bart's work. A soundtrack fills the gallery with melodious tones that musicians Christian Korab and Peter VanDeLinde produced by tapping the sculptures with felted hammers. (Don't try it!)
"These are my poems: odes in steel, elegies in smoke," Bart said as she finished installing the show. Harriet Bart show inaugurates new gallery