by Sophie Hale-Brown, ’18

On Monday I had the pleasure of attending the Wright Museum’s new art installation, Seasons of Lamentations. The powerful piece documents the grief and anger that swells over us in the wake of ongoing manifestations of violence which threaten to tear the fabric of our communities apart. It mourns those killed and silenced in Ferguson and Aleppo, Miami and Washington, D.C., Kansas and Sudan, but is a lamentation for us all.

“I guess I would say, it is for us,” Director of Community Based Learning Carol Wickersham explained during a brief reception held at its opening.  “[Seasons of Lamentation ] comes out of this community.  It is a faculty, staff, student co-equal collaboration, but it is also for us more broadly concerning anyone who is going through the violence and oppression of our time and refuses to take easy comfort. I think that’s part of what lamentation is. It’s healing, but it is not the easy way out.”

Seasons of Lamentation was created in a unique collaboration by Beloit College teachers, staff, and students, including Carol Wickersham, Yvonne Wu, Emma Kravig, J.P. Marquez, Gabrielle Rose Garcia, Mellody Strahan, Blair Henderson, Dan Bartlett, Meredith Root, and Lauren Roark.

In their brief talk back session on Monday, February 27, the artists gathered together to say a few words about the process they used in order to develop this piece. The process they described was intuitive: they didn’t always grasp the initial conceptualizations of their fellow collaborators, but it is clear that the final product is a result of individual expertise and the ability of the artists to highlight the qualities of each other’s performance.

Their intentionality in trusting one another’s intuition and unique contributions made a uniquely dynamic piece.

Designer Emma Kravig spoke to the process of the selection of the materials. “I knew I needed to use a sheer fabric if I wanted the projection to go through the piece. And I knew I needed to use an opaque fabric that wasn’t too solid, so the projection could hit the middle, but not go through to the other gauze. I ended up using two types of silk: the silk gauze and the Chinese silk. It was a very conscious decision from the beginning what type of fabric to use.”

This level of attention, and consideration of artistic elements working together, permitted the artists to fully express their relationship to lamentation. Dancer Gabrielle Rose Garcia spoke to her experience using the Tyvek, another fabric used in the installation. “For me it really felt like a blockade and when I started working with it, I was treating it delicately because I thought of it as a fabric. But as I continued to work with it, I realized how strong it really was. There’s a point when we laid it down and walked on it and we crumpled it up, and it just went back to the way it is supposed to go. It [the Tyvek] really causes you to start working with it which I think adds to the idea of persisting and defying.” The painted Tyvek hanging panels are the same pieces the dancers painted within the video.

The videographers, Mellody Strahan and Blair Henderson, also shared that both projectors show the same video, but that one is delayed by 90 seconds. Professor Yvonne Wu, who created the music, spoke to the cyclical nature of lamentation, and the goal to have the piece resonate with its viewers.

When asked “Who do you see this piece being for?” the artists cited everyone. Blair Henderson responded, “I see it as a piece for everyone, but I think especially marginalized groups within the U.S. As I was creating this I kept thinking about the shooting in Orlando over the summer.” Gabrielle Rose Garcia gave her take as well. “I wanted it to be for anyone who is in the midst of healing. With whatever they are healing with, or dealing with. And I get a little emotional about it, because there is not much I can do to help people heal, and I feel like this is one of the ways that I can, by showing them that I am also trying to heal.”

I encourage you to take the time to experience the combination of these different elements. I found the unique synthesis and cohesion of this piece to be captivating.The exhibit will be open until 3 pm on March 8. Make sure to take time to check it out!

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