MEM: memory•memorial

The current exhibition at the Hartnett Gallery on campus at the University of Rochester is Naomi Kasumi's "MEM: memory•memorial."

I got the chance to hear the artist's talk and go to the opening yesterday. Naomi Kasumi, who lived most of her life in Japan, teaches at the University of Seattle. We art majors at UR had the opportunity to get studio visits from her this week.

I learned from our conversation that she has her own experience with "environmental art" (whatever that means), and I confessed that one of my fears in this genre is producing cliché work. It was really helpful to hear a professional artist talk about her own experience being stereotyped in that field.  I know it's something that's bound to happen to me as I make more stuff

Hearing Naomi speak about her past projects before seeing the show at Hartnett was significant.  Since an abortion in 1998, the artist has created an intricate memorial for her unborn child every year on May 23 for the past 13 years. The project shown at Hartnett comprises several sets of 108 unfolded teabags, layered with wax as well as images, text, calligraphy, butterfly wings and held together by hand-tied string.

Although her exhibits are aesthetically pleasing and deeply emotional pieces, I begin to consider all the *things* (like memorials) that I generally don't consider to be "art."

When I think of the "best" memorials I've visited (and believe me, I don't know what I mean by "best"-- maybe most powerful?) two come to mind:

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin)

and The Irish Hunger Memorial (New York City) 
(Which, by the way is impossible to photograph. If you get the chance, please go-- it's worth it.)

It's tricky because I feel like you do need an artist to come up with these kinds of ideas and to put them together, so I don't have an answer. I'm just being critical and annoying.

A recurring theme that you'll find here is the devilish,
unanswerable query: what is art ?

Which, as I mentioned, stabs at my own artsy-heart as I toe the line between art and activism. (Super hard to toe something that's not a line, by the way…) Hopefully all this QUESTIONING will eventually make me sound like I know what I'm talking about. Someday.

(all the photos in this post were taken by me)

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