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McBurney Transitions into Stewart Gallery

The artist took her poses based on what the audience chose to place on the projector. Photo by Susanne Bushman

The newest exhibition of sketches and drawings at the Grinnell Arts Center’s Stewart Gallery opened this Thursday with a reception which featured a living statue performance by the artist. Focused on the human form, the artist Katelyn McBurney chose to feature various positions in the collection entitled “Transitions in Stillness.”

The stillness aspect comes from the many drawings placed around the gallery, as each one depicts a different resting position of a female body.

“The exhibit consists of a series of sketches on the human form in different poses,” said Christian Lutz, the executive director of the Grinnell Area Arts Council.

The drawings follow a more classical style, according to the artist statement. For the transitions, the artist performed as a “living statue” at the opening reception in the Stewart Gallery on Thursday evening.

The artist took her poses based on what the audience chose to place on the projector. Photo by Susanne Bushman
The artist took her poses based on what the audience chose to place on the projector. Photo by Susanne Bushman

The artist invited audience participation during the reception to facilitate the transition aspect of the performance.

“I think this exhibit will get [attendees] out of their comfort zone,” Lutz said.

The attendees were able to choose a drawing on projector overlays hanging around the room and  place it on a projector and the artist then “transitioned” into the depicted pose.

The artist wished to challenge the normal conventions of performance art, where there would be a set plan or choreography for the performance.

“Really, when you go into an art gallery you never have the expectation that you will have an impact on the art,” Lutz said.

Instead, the artist wanted the audience to take part in thinking about the transitions a body makes naturally, to emphasize the “control over the form of stillness and the moment of transition,” as said the artist statement, available on the Stewart Gallery website.

McBurney also places emphasis on the audience choice of whether or not to engage with the performer. Each audience member was confronted with the option of participating in the performance but the actual choice was up to them. This performance component of the overall exhibit is the centerpiece of the project, as it physically illustrates what a viewing of the drawings on their own are not be able to convey to the viewers.

McBurney considers her most important medium to be street performance and takes a lot of inspiration from her street art.

McBurney is untrained and instead relies on her creativity and natural ability to create art.

The opening featured a group committed to testing McBurney’s abilities as a model. For those attending, the living statue performance during the opening was a unique experience.

“I kind of like the concept here of being able to change the poses, its interesting,” said Nate Lawrence-Richards, of Des Moines. “I think [her art] is to challenge perspectives.”

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