In the Oak Room Gallery in Crabbe Hall, an installation is set up. In gradients of cool blue to light purple to peach, multiple, flowing panels of paper delicate cut to a distinct wave pattern are back-lit. Sheets of silk chiffon hang in front of the artwork, creating a softer atmosphere in the room. A soft, ambient sound of water dripping and trickling can be heard every once in a while.
UNC alumna and guest artist Katelynn Mai-Fusco introduced her sight-specific installation art piece “Amity” in an opening reception on Friday. The reception served wine and La Croix sparkling water as well a variety of snacks like fruit, veggies, cookies, cheese, crackers, chips and dips.
Pam Campanaro, the director of galleries with UNC’s School of Art and Design, organizes the monthly exhibitions and travels to art fairs and different studios of contemporary artists. Campanaro first became aware of Mai-Fusco’s work when Juxtapoz Magazine, a national publication, reposted a progress video of one of her works onto their Instagram. The repost has nearly 45,000 views. One of Mai-Fusco’s professors forwarded Campanaro the link, which prompted her to visit Mai-Fusco’s Fort Collins studio.
Mai-Fusco’s chosen medium is Tyvek, a type of paper with high-density polyethylene fibers allowing it to be cut, but not torn. With precision knives, Mai-Fusco cuts out intricate patterns.
“I loved that she was using this really minimal, light material and making these very subtle, gestural, small cuts with an Exact-o knife,” Campanaro said. “And usually when you think of making cuts, you think of cutting something out. In Katelynn’s work, she is not actually cutting anything out. All the cuts that you see and the sort of negative space and the flows that happen that’s all the negative space that happens from the weight of the paper just kind of falling.”
In her “Amity” piece, Mai-Fusco cut out patterns emulating water. The weight of the paper affecting the look of her Tyvek artwork was, as she calls it, “a happy accident.” Mai-Fusco’s inspiration for the piece came from the Poudre River in Fort Collins, so she started studying the sound, light and color of the river.
“I kind of became more obsessed with water and all the different aspects of water. I guess one of them being that it is a source of life, it makes up 70 percent of our bodies,” Mai-Fusco said. “Then another apart of it being that it’s a delicate thing that can be part of rituals, like baptizing somebody. But it can also be a powerful thing that can wipe out cities. I think that water is not only the source of life, but it embodies a lot of qualities that directly reflect what everyone goes through in life.”
This sense of water was achieved through her patterned cuts, the lighting, and the ambient noise which she recorded with the help of her mother. The sound was achieved with a knife dragged along the surface of some water.
Mai-Fusco tried to achieve a similar tranquility in her installment, as her inspiration is “Pixel Forest” by Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, whose work Mai-Fusco saw during her time in New York. The sense of peace was important to how she wanted to present her piece to UNC students. Her work is named “Amity,” meaning friendship. Mai-Fusco explained that “whether that friendship happens with the piece, yourself or a stranger,” the sense of amity was important to her work.
“This space is a gift for you guys,” Mai-Fusco said. “I want you guys to be able to come in here and really find a sense of healing within yourself, a sense of contemplation. And just have this place be sort of like a safe place where you can just be alone with yourself and your thoughts and be accepting of yourself.”
“Amity” will be open for viewing until Mar. 2. An artist talk will take place at the exhibition at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22.
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