After weeks of grinding and sifting the fine, red, Oklahoma soil, artist Rena Detrixhe unloads the earth at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. Taking it right to the spot where it will be displayed, she then begins the process of carefully transforming the fragile material into a Persian-style rug.
Detrixhe, a former guard at the Nerman, is one of the artists whose work will be displayed at the museum’s upcoming exhibit, Ephemera. The exhibit will take place in conjunction with the International Sculpture Conference in the Kansas City Metro area.
Bruce Hartman, executive director of the Nerman, described the nature of the collection.
“There are certain artists who are using these ephemeral materials,” Hartman said. “[In Detrixhe’s case] the work itself is transitory, the work itself is ephemeral. It will be up for the duration of the exhibit, and then it will go away.”
The rugs are Detrixhe’s response to the hard past of Oklahoma, a past which she describes as having been “swept under the rug.”
“In many ways, it is a response to the memory and history of that landscape,” Detrixhe said. “I’m thinking about the history of that landscape and what has happened there, what has happened to the ground there. What has happened on that ground and below that ground? It is a very complicated, painful history. I believe that all those things are imbedded in the soil.”
Work featured in the exhibit by another artist, Kahlil Irving, will deal with hard issues like racism today and the recent death of his mother.
“[Irving] does these fantastic pieces where he’s casting McDonald’s Styrofoam boxes,” Hartman said. “This particular body of work is an homage to his mother who passed away recently. He said he can never remember her without a cigarette. He’s embedded decals of cigarette boxes [in his work].”
Irving’s work will also tackle the temporality of human life.
“There’s reference also to the ephemerality of our own lives,” Hartman said. “I mean, we all have prescribed lifespans, we don’t know what that is, but we do all know that we have an expiration date.”
In the lobby right outside the main exhibit will be a smaller project in the Kansas Focus Gallery called “Universal Boxes.” The exhibition will compose of seven wall-hanging, corrugated boxes shaped into pyramids by May Tveit, artist and Associate Professor of Industrial Design at KU.
To make the project happen, Tveit is working with Lawrence Paper Company, a 130 year old family run cardboard box company where she spent a lot of time as an unofficial artist in residence. She drew much inspiration from her time there as well as a book on packaging design.
“I was always fascinated by the box and its flat form, before it becomes a three-dimensional object, or container, it’s a flat part,” Tveit said.
The museum will host a free opening reception for the exhibit on Oct. 19 from 6 to 7 p.m. in the atrium between the Nerman and the Regnier Center. Hors d’oeuvres will be served and a cash bar will be open. After the reception, four of the artists will discuss their work in the Hudson Auditorium, not including Irving and Detrixhe, who will be speaking at another event on Nov. 16.
More information on the exhibit can be found here.