Performance evokes exhibit's symbolism

Sunday, April 28, 2002

When six Canadian artists withdrew from the "Common Ground" exhibition, Lawrence artist Diana Dunkley "felt like a bride left at the altar."

"I liked all of them, and so it was an emotional experience," she said.

Dunkley began thinking about ways to unify the artists remaining in the show. The result is a 51-minute, collaborative performance piece that incorporates layers of symbolism and meanings that will be presented May 11 at the Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa, Canada.

And like many of Dunkley's performance art pieces, it has no recorded title in print � its name can only be spoken.

"Somasignificance suggests that if it is spoken, what is spoken can affect us on a cellular level," Dunkley writes in the brochure that accompanies the work. "The process of this piece is meant to be fully recognized only after its completion, and upon conscious reflection."

The work, performed by Lawrence resident Sarah Harrington, consists of an altar with offerings, a triptych of the creation myth by Dunkley and a recording of voices in many languages reciting poems and words that matter to the speakers.

"Each element in the piece helps build the altar," Harrington said. "I like how the mundane elements of nature are elevated (in meaning) and how parts from Canada and Lawrence combine to make a whole."

Dunkley said the work was, in part, inspired by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and a quote by Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel, who said that nothing would ever be built at the site of the crematoriums where Jews were killed during World War II because that's where their ashes lie.

In addition to using ashes, the performance piece also uses various hues of fabric to represent the colors of Kansas; water from the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers; air collected from Kansas that will be carried to Canada in a sealed container and then released during the performance; the music of Big Hat; an altar designed and constructed by Lawrence resident Matt Jones; and barley and wheat seed, which will be planted and grown during the exhibit.

The installation and audio track will remain at the gallery through June 23.

In addition to the performance piece, Dunkley and two Lawrence artists will conduct educational activities during the Ottawa exhibition.

Dunkley will give the lecture "Harley Davidsons and Fine Visual Art: Guidelines for the Survival and Support of Visual Artists" May 13 and lead a discussion group May 14.

Missy Hamilton will conduct a metal leafing workshop June 17-20, and J. Geer Kellas will offer a silverpoint drawing workshop June 17-20.