Mark Wonsidler Looks into The Inner Room

A Museum Without Walls welcomes  LUAG Coordinator of Collections and Exhibitions, Mark Wonsidler, as the sites’ first guest blogger.  If you have not been to The Lower Gallery to view the ‘Is It Art’ exhibit yet, after reading this post you may be compelled to visit, even if it is only to see The Inner Room.

I’ll admit it.  I like the Inner Room.  Those of you who visit the LUAG Lower Gallery at the Zoellner Arts Center know what I’m talking about.  Hennie Ann Isdahl’s dark blue painting from 2010? sits quietly in the West corner, dimly reflecting its surroundings.  If you haven’t seen it, I’ll describe it for you.  It’s a three-foot square piece of masonite with a lush auto-body spray paint surface of deep, deep blue.  It hovers slightly in its slim-fit welded steel frame.  Sexy.  In a doomed sort of way. What I like about it is how much I can get from so little.  No surface markings, no figure, no trace of the artist’s hand (she actually hired some body shop guys to do the work).  Just a few slim decisions: the surface, the size, the sheen, the color, and that title.  The Inner Room.    Its action is insidious, like a drop of some colorless, ordorless chemical that quickly permeates the whole, changing everything.  The title is what takes me back into the painting.  It’s the key in the lock. Now I’m not just looking at the surface, although I love looking at the surface.  I’m looking into the shadowy blue reflection of the room in which I’m standing.  It’s comforting in there.  It’s quiet.  Another room in which the familiar is has shifted through some murky half-step into something rich and strange.  And the literary allusions don’t stop there.  Woolf’s Room of One’s Own is here, alongside the apostle Paul’s through a glass darkly, and for another generation that curtained threshold in J.K. Rowling’s Hall of Mysteries.  Alice is here too, readyMark discusses The Inner Room with First Year Experience students. to cross over into a world more like Jan Svankmajer than Disney. What I’m saying is: there’s a lot of room in that Inner Room.  These are my associations, but perhaps you will find your own?  You might meditate on the artist’s homeland of Norway, with its curious relationship to migratory sunlight.  I read this week that they are using mirrors to offset the long winter darkness. Or perhaps you’ll find an affinity with James Turrell’s massive light installation at the Guggenheim museum? I won’t deny that there are skeptics.  The Inner Room has at least as many detractors as fans.  During a recent visit to the gallery by some First Year Experience students, I was asked the pointed question: “Can a well-placed mirror be art?” So we talked about it.  From my perspective, certainly anything can be art, but not everything succeeds.  But the right mirror, in the right place, at the right time, angled just so to reflect….??? Yes, that sounds like good sculpture to me.  And you know what? Some of them agreed with me.

This is what happens with art.  You should spend some time with it and see.

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