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Whimsical installation suspends from Smith Gallery

Smith Gallery – John Brady
Smith Gallery - John Brady
Tran strung patterned pieces of plastic together with fishing line to create a light and fantastical installation. Photo by John Brady.

Ally Xu

When visitors walk into Smith Gallery this week, their eyes will be drawn to the extensive twists of clear plastic spanning the entire ceiling. Christine Tran’s ’16 newest installation, “WISP,” conveys a sense of beauty, wonder and imagination.

Molded and twisted to represent a 3D landscape, the show features 555 individual plastic pieces strung together with fishing line, all suspended just centimeters above the viewers’ heads. Some of the plastic pieces include varying subtle patterns, adding aesthetic appeal to the work.

“Some of the patterns [on the pieces] are alternating, some of them have patterns all the way through and some of them just don’t have any patterns,” Tran said. “I want to have variations so that it’s not all patterned.”

The title of the exhibit, “WISP,” is short for whisper, highlighting the clear and light nature of the artwork.

“I was thinking about the fact that the [artwork] is clear and light, so I wanted the name to go along with that. I was thinking maybe whisper but then I ended up with “WISP,” like wisp of smoke, which is light, airy and disappears,” Tran explained.

“WISP” is part of Tran’s current Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), which allows her to explore her interests and conduct research within her studio art major.

“This is my first project for my MAP,” Tran said. “I keep a running list of artists that I like. For this piece, I knew I wanted to do something big … an installation, so I was looking through all the artists that I like and … talking to my advisor.”

Tran was inspired by installation artists Tara Donovan and Cornelia Parker, whose patterned installations influenced her to employ repetition in her artwork.

“I naturally like to make repeated forms and those two people do a lot of suspension art,” she said. “I definitely [wanted] to hang something from the ceiling. Then, after researching different materials, [I wanted to] work with something clear.”

A double major in computer science and studio art, Tran pointed out that her knowledge in programming has been helpful in creating the final product.

“I was using a program called “Processing” to create the patterns and then I stuck them on the [plastic] pieces,” she said.

For Tran, the installation provides an ideal opportunity to explore the venues of artwork for which she is most passionate and to start building toward her future projects.

“This is really just an exploration for myself in terms of [figuring] out the types of artwork that I want to make. This is the first real piece that I made without any outside influence. This was just me exploring things that I am drawn to,” Tran said.

“WISP” will be displayed through Friday, March 4 in Smith Gallery.

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