There’s no shortage of artists or galleries in Juneau, but on the whole, we don’t get the chance to see many large-scale art installations or experimental performance pieces. And that’s something local artist Sarah Conarro would like to see change.
Next week, on Jan. 30 and 31, Conarro and collaborator Julian Bozeman will expand the range of available art options to include an immersive installation of light and sound at the Rookery. The installation is designed to build on Conarro’s visual art exhibit, on view in the Seward Street space through the end of the month, and will be presented during a four-course dinner, prepared by Rookery chef Beau Schooler; reservations are required.
Conarro said part of the reason she wanted to do the installation at the Rookery, rather than in a gallery, was to broaden her potential audience to include those who might not consider themselves part of the artsy crowd.
“I’m constantly... interested in the broader population,” she said. “I’m often thinking, ‘How can I reach the person that would have never seen this?’ The non-gallery-goer is invited. If it’s the wine that brings them in, or if it’s the cheesecake that brings them in, I don’t care, they may end up having this positive experience that burns in their memory.”
She also was intrigued by the challenge of transforming a space that is familiar to many in Juneau.
“We have a lot of talented work in this town, but I haven’t seen a lot of people addressing a space. So that was my interest,” she said.
The project began in December, when Conarro installed 16 large wood-and-mirror sculptures -- eight 6-by-2 foot pieces paired with eight 2-by-2 foot pieces -- that extend almost to the ceiling of the downtown cafe. For next week’s shows, Bozeman will fill the room with projections of color and motion coming from multiple projectors at various angles, playing off Conarro’s sculptures as well as prisms and other objects. He will also create a “soundscape” to go along with his projections.
“My goal is to fill every surface with beautiful colors sweeping across the room and covering the audience with bits of rainbow-colored light, to create an environment that is enjoyable to experience, calming and warm -- a nice place to be together,” Bozeman said in an email.
In New York, Bozeman makes videos, music, installations and sculpture, as well as other types of visual and performance art. He and Conarro attended the same high school in Georgia and have collaborated on installations in the past. They are also teaching artists. This past fall, the pair led a workshop at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School called the “Alaska Experimental Video Map Project,” in which middle school art students created collages in response to the question “What Is One Important Place to You in Juneau?”
And this Saturday, both artists will lead Artist in the School Teacher Workshops at Mendenhall River Community School (see this week's Arts for details). Conarro will lead a workshop focusing on the concept of artistic instinct, “Happening at Once: Making Instinctual Choices to Create an Immediate Image,” and Bozeman will lead “The Video Feedback Experiment,” designed to allow teachers to experiment with video equipment including video mixers, robotically controlled cameras, and video colorizers.
Conarro’s previous local shows include a performance installation with her brother, Ryan Conarro, called “Keep coming back because...” in March 2013, and “Glitters,” a visual art and live music piece she organized with KXLL’s Andy Kline in 2012.
For the Rookery project, Conarro said she wants the entire effect to be uplifting, and timed the installation for mid-winter specifically for that reason, as a way to light up the darkest time of the year.
“I wanted to warm up the space,” she said.
To that end, she created her 16 wooden sculptures in tones of yellow, orange, red and burgundy. The idea of progression is central to the installation, Conarro said, and is reflected in her titles, which don’t correspond to particular pieces but to the work as a whole. Each piece is different, featuring a cutout pattern backed with mirror as well as painted and textured stencils, some of which include colored sand. Conarro designed the pieces to stand alone, but they are visually connected, with the patterns on some pieces mirroring those on others. She said it doesn’t really matter if people notice those connections — she designed them to be accessible on multiple levels. Next week’s performances have been set up similarly, she said, so that people can pay close attention or just enjoy the overall effect.
“It should be hitting that balance where you can come in and look at it for a second ... and be affected by it in a positive manner. And if you choose to become more attentive to it, there should be reward in that, too. In my pieces maybe it’s ‘Oh – those two pieces are related to each other, there’s coordination between them.’ And Julian’s piece on top of these pieces is doing the same thing. There’s a progression for the attentive, interested viewer. But you don’t have to be heady to enjoy it.”
Overall, Conarro said she hopes people just have a good time at the dinner (which is formal) and find the installation beautiful.
“There’s not a lot of thick self exploration in this, in creating this work. It’s an outlet for being really positive and trying to help people get that (feeling) just by walking in,” she said.
Tickets to the Rookery dinner on Jan. 30 and 31 are $80. To find out more about this event, visit www.nicelooking.sarahconarro.com.
For more on Conarro, visit www.sarahconarro.com. For more on Bozeman, visit julianbozeman.com.