antigravity: Needle-and-bowl by Melissa Vandenberg

On view March 9, 2019 – February 16, 2020

Antigravity: A Space for Contemporary Perspectives is an exciting series of site-specific art installations in the entry of The Rockwell. Each spring, a contemporary guest artist will create an original work of art in response to The Rockwell’s collection. This new, unusual exhibition space greets each guest, provoking curiosity and reflection about art from the moment you enter the building.

Melissa Vandenberg finds inspiration in ordinary materials, using items like matches, quilts, stickers, popsicles and temporary tattoos to address issues of power, mortality, patriotism and pride. Vandenberg used hundreds of handkerchiefs to create a site-specific installation in The Rockwell’s rotunda entryway. During her installation visit to Corning, Vandenberg also had the opportunity to serve as a Guest Artist in the Corning Museum of Glass Hot Shop Amphitheater.

Informed by Buddhist prayer flags, believed to spread mantras of goodwill, this work is an artistic response to the architecture of The Rockwell Museum rotunda. Needle-and-Bowl employs hundreds of antique handkerchiefs that serve as markers of individual identity, each one embedded with the specific DNA of their former owner.

The rotunda is a transitional space that marks the start of a navigated journey.  The title Needle-and-Bowl references early compass devices that used a magnetized needle, cork and a bowl of water to navigate. This installation piece addresses themes of exploration, immigration and displacement. Here, each handkerchief represents a person rather than representing prayer.

About the Artist

Born and educated in Detroit, Melissa is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and curator living in Eastern Kentucky. Her studio practice explores the political landscape using national identity, folk art, ancestry, immigration, and the perception of a homeland as points of departure. She gravitates to everyday materials like matches, fabric, stickers, wood, and commonplace objects. Her work has been exhibited in Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, Iceland, and extensively throughout the United States. Melissa received a BFA in 1999 from Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan and a MFA in 2005 from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She has been the recipient of numerous grants including a Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant, the Al Smith Fellowship, Great Meadows Foundation Travel Grant, and was shortlisted for the Luxembourg Art Prize in 2016. Melissa is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Eastern Kentucky University.

Melissa is represented by Maus Contemporary in Birmingham, AL.


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