Claudia Esslinger displays "Still/Moving Images" in Olin Gallery
"Still/Moving Images," an exhibit derived from the multimedia video installations of Kenyon College Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger, was on display at Kenyon College's Olin Art Gallery, located in Kenyon's Olin Library, from Thursday, April 26, through Sunday, May 27.
Esslinger also presented a public talk about her exhibit, which is the result of her recent year-long sabbatical.
While Esslinger's work is largely video based, the exhibition's title is indicative of her recent experimentation with the large-scale digital printing of still images derived from her installations. "Still/Moving Images" revisited the themes of Esslinger's installations from the past ten years, investigating the topics of several of those installations in two-dimensional form. The exhibit's combination of still images, video, and other media demonstrated the breadth of Esslinger's artistry, which typically explores the nature of power and authority.
Esslinger's video installations layer video, sound, voice, artifact, space, time, and constructed environment. "Reinventions" is Esslinger's most recent video work, and the only project that is entirely video that was on display. It concerns women's internalization of social conventions. The piece features a clinically composed, starkly lit eye, with a tweezer plucking the eyebrow. Set to the notes of a piano being tuned, the eyelid closes periodically, revealing dark water imagery. The water grows to overwhelm the eye, rushing and covering ghostly images of women swimming below it. The piece evokes a number of interpretations regarding women's response to social and cultural expectations.
"The retrospective nature of the exhibit was one way in which I could physically share some of the ideas behind my installations with people in my community," says Esslinger. "The people I care about the most often can't come to see my work because of the lack of proximity of my shows."
Themes of the use and abuse of power permeate the work Esslinger has adapted from her "Plucking the Songbird" and "Civil Divination." Still images adapted from "Projected Memories," a video installation displayed at Denison University last fall, and "Fragile Armors" query the interconnected hierarchies of family, religion, community, and sexuality.
"In revisiting previous themes, I've had the opportunity to use new techniques that I've been teaching in my classes," says Esslinger. "It's been a long while since I've made prints. It was like revisiting the past, but it's also part of a new frontier because of the techniques I'm using with computers and ink-jet printers. Many of the ideas didn't work in two-dimensional form as simple documentation; they needed to be altered to convey a similar intent."
Esslinger holds an M.F.A. in printmaking from the University of Minnesota and a B.A. in art from Bethel College. Prior to joining the faculty at Kenyon, she was an assistant professor at Denison University. Esslinger has exhibited throughout Ohio and in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin. Her work is part of the art collection at Nankai University in China.
In the fall of 1999, Esslinger spent six weeks in residency in Germany as the recipient of an Ohio Artist Exchange Residency Fellowship. She has received four individual artist fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in the areas of interdisciplinary, media, and visual arts.
A brochure, featuring an essay by Olin Art Gallery Director Dan Younger, accompanied the exhibition. Copies are available by writing to Younger at the Olin Art Gallery, Olin Library, Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022-9625.
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