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A Barren Landscape On Campus
We had the privilege of hosting Abi Ogle ’18 and her exhibit “Barren Landscape” on September 7th. She graduated from Covenant with a double major in 2D and 3D Art and is a current MFA candidate at the VCUarts Department of Craft/Material Studies in Richmond, VA. Read on to catch a glimpse of the experience.
Entering the gallery, a tapestry translucent and cascading draws your attention. Upon further inspection, you see hundreds of carefully sewn grapefruit membranes, preserved in glycerin and yellowed with age, pooling to the floor and inviting you to circle around its rippling edge. Moving behind the tapestry, countless membranes placed with precision on wood oat stems protrude from the wall and mimic rows of dying flowers. In a glass alcove, a triangular heap of paper-like pith lying on the concrete catches your eyes. Why this material? How are grapefruit membranes – something seemingly ordinary and often discarded – made beautiful? How does this help us wrestle with our faith?
Your journey around the room comes alive through light and shadow. Stepping around the tapestry, your eyes catch the subtle glow and billowing darkness that fall through its thin skin. Even though the pith is left as an empty shell on the ground, devoid of the sweet fruit that once kissed its skin, light rays from the window reveal glimpses of the blue and red that remain in its veins. The petals lining the wall flow gently as you glide past – activated and alive even though they previously appeared hollow, empty, and lost in their shadow.
Dr. ElissaWeichbrodt ’04, curator of the exhibit, notes that these pieces activate our own bodies by asking us to bend, kneel, and stretch to get a closer look, and then they respond to our movement by coming to life. These grapefruit remains become bodies, imbued with life through our presence and attention.
“Grief functions as a presence that demands to be felt,” says Ogle. This visibly empty material is seen because of its loss. Even though loss and lament persist, this work still sparks hope. Despite feeling empty or lifeless at times, we wait with anticipation for the new life and resurrection that is to come.
Ogle comments that, “artwork can be a tangible response to grief and what it means to hope.” These skins have been forever transformed by what has been lost; but in their emptiness, they are made new. Each membrane becomes a body, still present and waiting “in between.”
For now, our own bodies remain weary and empty in this barren landscape. We are plagued with grief and overcome by loss, but we do not remain alone or without hope. Ogle’s work leads the viewer to remember their loss, pain, and sadness, while also encouraging them with the hope we have in our God, the Creator and Maker of all things, who breathes life into our empty shells and dry bones.
Ogle’s exhibit is open to the public and will be displayed in the Kresge Memorial Library Gallery until October 14th.