November 8th, 2013
Shadow of Amy Uthus’s “Cereal Days” (Source: Kelsey Johnson)
November 25, 2013
The first piece I encountered at the Art 316 open house was Amy Uthus’ This far you may come (column). My first time visiting the collection of studios, I was not positive what was on display and what was simply part of the space. But, almost as if it could sense my confusion, there was Uthus’ “column” hung in the corner of the landing between flights of stairs – two pieces of blue painters tape outlining a square tile on the floor, just approximately the width of the porcelain tiles suspended above it. As if it were proclaiming:
I am the art.
Amy Uthus’ This far you may come (column) (Source: Kelsey Johnson)
While I can’t pretend I was exceptionally struck by the piece, I did appreciate its simplicity. The varying distances between squares seemed to play with movement, and demand their own transitional space. And if nothing else I was thankful for its firm stance as artwork.
I feel as if I should out myself here, I am not a trained artist, nor a seasoned critic. I actually know very little about aesthetic, visual artwork, and I’m not even that great at appreciating it. As a writer who specializes in nonfiction, it can be hard for me get behind artwork that doesn’t have a definable context grounding it, placing it somewhere tangible from which I can interact with the piece.
Amy Uthus's Cereal days (Source: Kelsey Johnson)
That brings me to the next installment I encountered during the opening, another by Amy Uthus; Cereal days. A series of porcelain squares; seven lengthwise and three down, each decorated with a slightly different shadow that processed across the squares. Hanging on the wall to the right of the installation was an explanation of the piece detailing the artist’s experience with sugar cereal during her childhood, a rare treat offered to her three days of the week: Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. So she traced the shadows cast by the sun on those days, marked the differences every three minutes, and transferred the progression onto the 21 porcelain tiles. In doing so she hoped to trace the passing in time and translate her feelings of nostalgia when creating the piece.
Now that was a concept I could latch on to. But was that all the piece had to offer? A purely conceptual relation to artwork via its intention?
I talked with Amy Uthus, the artist, later that evening. She talked about spirituality, her relationship with space as an artist, etc. Though a comment that struck me most concerned one of her goals as an artist: a hope to get people to slow down.
Installation shot of Cereal Days (Source: Kelsey Johnson)
After our discussion I went back to look at Cereal Days, this time turning off the lights to better see how it interacted with the spotlights designed to frame it. The porcelain was solid yet transparent, and left a lattice shadow on the ground below it. It was definitely a piece that commanded space. In this sense the artwork exceeded its context and entered into the realm of spatiality. But just as that context allowed me to intact with the piece, acted as a point of entry, it was also what allowed me to reject theory and enter into pure aesthetic. Did I feel nostalgia when looking at the piece? Probably not… but it did help me to slow down.
Kelsey Johnson, Chicago native, English and journalism double major at Drake University set to graduate this spring. You can typically find me writing in-between my avid bursts of complaining about writing. @kjohn16