“There will be pictures of dead things. I will talk about death. Some images and themes can be considered graphic.”
This was the trigger warning that doubled as an introduction to Engaging Evenings: Artist Talk with Philippa Jones at The Rooms on Wednesday.
The artist was introduced by Jason Ross Sellars, The Rooms’ education and public programming officer.
Sellars, who has been with The Rooms since its opening in 2005, explained that “Suspended” had created a major social media buzz, unlike anything he has seen in his decade and a half at the museum.
Jones’s “Suspended” exhibit is unlike anything I have seen at The Rooms.
Approximately 1,300 orbs dangle from a hexagonal frame, carefully tied to clear nylon string. Each orb, made of resin, features flora and fauna foraged by the artist, including but not limited to acorn, aster, baby’s breath, bee, birch, bones, butterfly, chive, chrysanthemum, claw, clover, coral, cornflower, cowslip, creeping jenny, eggshell, feather, fennel, fern, forget-me-not, grass, honeysuckle, human teeth, hydrangea, iris, ivy, lavender, maple, moss, nightshade, oak, old man’s beard, orchid, parsley, peacock feather, peony, pine, pine cone, rose, seaweed, shells, spider, strawberry leaf, sweet pea and much more.
The exhibit also features a number of drawings, paintings and sculptures. Jones worked 60 hours a week for 10 months, sometimes churning out 100 orbs in a good week, when the resin co-operated, she said with a laugh.
While some may look at the paintings of animal necropsy and the orbs comprised of organic matter as an exploration of our relationship with nature, “Suspended” is more an exploration of time, and how we perceive it.
We experience time in a linear fashion – the past, present and future – but Jones believes we don’t only experience time that way. We may feel like we have no control over time, but time is subjective, she argues.
She supports her arguments by noting common experiences about our days being long or flying by, and explaining that we can bend time when recalling memories.
A conversation about time often leads to a conversation about when our time is up. Jones’s views on death have come from a lifetime of observing, from the first encounter — dark moments in children’s movies, the death of a pet and onward through life, as we learn to cope with the inevitable loss of our loved ones.
The artist spoke of her mother’s Catholicism, and how nice it must be to believe in something like the afterlife. Jones wonders, if there is an afterlife, what about a pre-life? Where were we before we were here?
Jones also wonders what time would look like “if it was all there at once.”
For the elements of nature encased in resin, time no longer exists. They are “eternally trapped in one continuous moment,” Jones’s presentation reads. “Preservation prolongs death.”
"Suspended" is at The Rooms until April 14.
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