In two weeks, the current exhibition at the Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE), “Ephemeral,” will palpably live up to its overarching theme, the nature of impermanence, by closing on Nov. 14.
Before then, however, the exhibition, held in conjunction with the Washington Sculptors Group (WSG), is offering an engagingly diverse exploration of ephemerality with three-dimensional works by 27 artists from WSG.
According to Holly McCullough, GRACE’s executive director and curator of the exhibition, “Ephemeral” was inspired by the temporary installation by internationally known sculptor Patrick Doughterty, erected in the Reston Town Center Park immediately outside the GRACE Gallery.
Expected to remain in place for approximately two years, the Dougherty installation, which was co-sponsored by GRACE and the Initiative for Public Art-Reston, can be viewed directly from McCullough’s office window. She explained, “It got me thinking about the concept of ephemerality … which is almost a trademark of modern art.”
In the past, McCullough continued, art was intended to outlive its maker, to “defy mortality” and last beyond the precise era and culture of when it was created.
Now, more and more contemporary artists are embracing the concept of ephemerality as a “deliberate strategy.” They are creating art that “will come and go the way we will.”
All the works in the GRACE exhibition, McCullough further explained, address this concept either through their site-specific natures so they can never be used in the same way again or through the use of materials that will intentionally decay or are cast offs.
In addition, they conceptually deal with life’s natural transitions, such as aging, erosion and mortality.
Among the materials used, for example, are suspended pods made of milkweed fluff that embody “the fragility of life.” Grapevines create “nature spheres” that are “intended to age and decay in the natural environment over time.” Another work uses a tree downed in a storm, “slicing and rearranging its form to resurrect a life cut short.”
Other artists have artfully used materials that are based in nature but removed from it and reworked, like potato chips, beet-sugar candy and fur.
Invoking things past and changing times, a dictionary of obsolete words is an unambiguous reminder that language itself can be ephemeral.
“Collectively, these works heighten our awareness of the passage of time,” McCullough noted. “They remind us that although art is not always long, its ability to provoke reflection and communicate complex ideas enriches our own transitory existence.”
The 27 artists in GRACE’s “Ephemeral” exhibition were selected strictly from WSG’s membership, which presently numbers approximately 400. Selected artists include: Jessica Beels, Nizette Brennan, May Britton, Elizabeth Burger, Kathleen Carlson, Gloria Chapa, Jeff Chyatte, Elsabé Loubser Dixon, Annie Farrar, Elissa Farrow-Savos, Billy Friebele, Gil Narro Garcia, Marilyn Stanek Geldzahler, Maggie Gourlay, Tom Greaves, Artemis Herber, Liz Lescault, Carol Gellner Levin, Ruth Lozner, Emily Piccirillo, Iris Posner, Marco Rando, Pam Rogers, Mike Shaffer, Diane Szczepaniak, raymonde van santen, and Millicent Young.