Submitted by San Juan Islands Museum of Art
Looking up through this art installation, we are presented with the illusion of being submerged amidst the kelp, underwater. Changing light throughout the days alters the mood of this very tactile art at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art. We are challenged by the installation “Tide of Transition,” designed by Cathryn Mallory of Missoula, Montana. She intends for the Atrium to be a space for reflection on the beauty and function of marine plant forms of the Pacific Northwest.
Mallory presents a kelp bed to highlight its value as a nursery for plant and sea life and as a sustainable energy and carbon-neutral food source. Bob Durden, the former curator of the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, described her exhibition “Trace Identity” thusly: “Like many artists working today, Cathryn Mallory rejects the abandonment of beauty and instills beauty into her work through the use and command of her materials and the forms that she chooses to create. For her, to make something beautiful reflects a positive outlook on life.”
Mallory uses a variety of skills and materials to build this seductive, touch-able environment. From her textile background, she hand-felts wool and weaves, wraps, binds and twists fibers and copper mesh to her will. Wool protects sheep, humans and homes mirroring a function of kelp beds which provide protection, habitat and nutrition for aquatic life. When interacting with wool and water, Mallory fashions felt from a process like moving kelp in the sea. She uses copper, a healing material that provides energy-reflecting traits of a kelp bed.
Though labor-intensive, the process of hand-making the basic elements of the installation is an intuitive and reflective process, incorporating subconscious inspiration into the final work. “Tide of Transition” relates industrial and domestic materials resulting in plant forms with contrasting structures.
Concurrently on display at SJIMA is by Robert Dash’s “Food For Thought Micro Views: Threats and Prospects” offering a micro perspective on how one part of nature — our food — is connected to climate change. Mallory relates to Dash’s exhibition by directing our eyes to the beauty and patterns of the ecosystem.
Mallory is a professor and director of the gallery of visual arts for the School of Art at the University of Montana. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in fiber arts from Northern Illinois University and a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Oklahoma.
San Juan Islands Museum of Art is open from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday-Monday. Mondays are pay-as-you-can days. Admission is $10, with members and those 18 and under free. For more information, visit www.sjima.org. SJIMA is located at 540 Spring St. in Friday Harbor.