WILMINGTON — ”Light as a vital component of an artwork is enticing,” according to visual artist Christine Reising.
Reising and Garin Horner collaborated on “The Visitant,” a 6-foot-28-inch lantern that hangs as part of Cameron Art Museum’s “Illumination” exhibition. Celebrating its ninth year, “Illumination” opens Friday and showcases 36 handmade lanterns, created by local, national and even international makers.
It’s the second year Reising and Horner — both from Michigan and who have been friends for 40 years — have entered the juried exhibit. The two enjoy working together due to a shared appreciation for spirituality, evident in their art.
“The Visitant” is a textile piece, created from a 1900 silk and lace dress, covered in transparent layers of fabric. The goal is to mimic that of a memory, dream or spirit.
“An illuminated dress popped in my head one day and Garin loved the idea,” Reising described. “Over time it became a shadowy female form.”
It goes hand-in-hand with the theme for the 2023 display. Susan Whisnant, CAM’s registrar, was drawn to a Maya Angelou quote for this year’s exhibit inspiration: “If one has courage, nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”
Participating artists were prompted to answer: How does light shine in your mind, heart and soul?
“We look at the exhibition as a space for artists to reflect and step back to examine what gives them courage and inspiration,” CAM spokesperson Matt Budd added.
Reising, a multi-disciplinary artist who has created costumes for Ann Arbor theater community and works in printmaking, collage, and book arts, has devised a similar piece before. She created an installation “The Enchanter Border,” which included four female spirit figures in a Victorian séance parlor.
For CAM’s piece, a ghostly evanescence is showcased in a muted palette of cream, lavender, black, sepia, and gray. The two worked in tandem, with Reising creating 20 badges attached to the front of the skirt and Horner’s 20 photographs of altars becoming a border that Reising crocheted.
“The altar photographs imply thresholds to the inner spiritual world,” Reising described. “The badge amulets represent protections for her journey. In these ways the ‘Visitant’ functions as a shrine-like intermediary between spiritual and earthly worlds.”
Horner’s photos have been exhibited at national and international museums, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cranbrook Art Museum, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Fort Wayne Art Museum and the Musee du Louvre in Paris.
The two also included on the art work an homage to their 2022 “Illumination” entry, titled “Sacred Heart.” A stuffed velvet heart embroidered with “forget-me-knots” is draped around the figure like a necklace.
The most challenging aspect of the creation was suspending the light inside the dress. Horner shaped the figure with a shoulder framwork to help secure the bulb.
Budd said this year’s entries feature a wide variety of artistic output.
“I think visitors will see some thematic connections as well as be surprised by some unique submissions — including one that acts as a selfie station,” he said.
Local artist Anne McCombie devised “Namaste: The Light Within Me Recognizes the Light Within You.” It features life-sized wings created from wire, paper, beads, string and feathers. The base is made of a light and mirror so the viewers can snap a photo of themselves as a winged figure; signs with positive messages are nearby to hold in the picture as well. The artist encourages the community to post the photos to social media to spread positivity, love and uplifting encouragement.
Also a participant before in “Illumination,” self-taught artist Barton Hatcher — who spent 20 years as a home designer — entered a 38-inch-by-19-inch-by-10-inch multimedia piece titled “I Let My Light Lead the Way” this year. A winged jester faces forward with his heart open to the world; it’s created from wood, plexiglass, copper wire, paper, glass and acrylic paints.
“I wanted to create something that emulates, hopefully, the way I lead my own life,” he said. “When I meet people, I hope it is my inner light that they are drawn to.”
He sketched the piece first as a life-sized drawing and cut all of the individual elements from a template. After painting each, Hatcher assembled them, adding in the decorative jewels, wings and flowers at the end.
“The bottom portion of the lantern was the hardest part of the process,” he said. “The most rewarding is always when you light the lantern and see its beautiful glow just as you had imagined.”
Hatcher was so happy with the outcome, he also created a painting of the piece as the lantern was being built.
“It’s a play on the many sides of us as human beings,” he explained. “Note the two faces are the same and yet different at the same time.”
Judges for the 2023 exhibition include local artists Gayle Tustin and Dumay Gorham, physician Loleta Robinson, New Hanover County Chief Diversity Officer Linda Thompson, philanthropist Wilma Daniels, broadcast anchor Jon Evans, advertising executive and artist Sandra Pérez-Puelles Burgman, philanthropist Caroline Cameron, and architect Charles Boney. They will rate the entries based on aesthetics, execution, conceptualism, presentation, and effectiveness of lighting.
A People’s Choice award also will be awarded.
“Illumination” opens Friday night and will feature a deejayed set from Fort Lowell Records’ James Tritten and Tracy Shedd from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tickets are $5 to $15 and artists are awarded $1,500 in prizes.
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