A view of hibernaculum as you enter the gallery:
And a view of the installation with people in it, for scale. The walls are about 13 feet tall.
Also a few pictures of some of the wonderful work in the show: Rise Nagin's collage of natural objects and Carin Mincemoyer's mirror-clouds in the gallery's bay windows.
Before I tell you anything about this piece, let me first say that I owe its existence to some very awesome people. hibernaculum would not have been possible without the time, materials, installation help, expertise, and support the following people have generously shared with me: Brandon at Laser Lab Studio, Sam Ditch, Deanna Mance, Alisa Michael, Chris and Kristen Osterwood, Christy Rollinson, David Rollinson, and Katherine Talcott. Also, it was hugely reassuring to work through my first installation with the other artists I showed with - their experience with installation art made everything a little less terrifying for me. Thank you all!
So. About this piece. If you've been reading this blog, you've noticed I've been thinking a lot lately about the invasive fungal infections that are suddenly killing off many bats in North America. This show ended up being the perfect opportunity to work with that idea, and expand on previous themes of paper-constructed animals to create a large-scale work. I wanted to use paper from natural history books to reference my thoughts about how we use science to make sense of the natural world, even in situations where the world is changing faster than we can understand it (often as the result of our own actions). In an earlier entry I mentioned one of the books I used, The Uncivilized Races, or, a Natural History of Man, and supplemented that with more material that was donated to me and that I found at used bookstores: books about native trees of Canada, a textbook on forestry, a book about endangered species from the 1970s, books on evolution.
These bats are all cut with a laser, from a template that I designed. Every single one is attached to cardboard shapes, backed by foam, that were prepared in my studio and installed at the gallery, with some re-adjusting, re-pinning, and filling in as I went. My best estimate of the number of bats is between 6,000 and 7,000, and they average about 100 per square foot.
As far as the shape, I spent a lot of time looking at photos of bats clustered in caves, but for this installation I felt it was more appropriate to respond to the space rather than create a simulation of a natural bat shape. After all, it was already apparent that these were flat paper objects. I did a lot of fussing and adjusting and freaking out about finishing the edges on the sloped part of the ceiling before I realized what I was actually doing was subconsciously making a map . . . which is why those edges remain un-rounded. To me it referenced the geometric structure underneath the bats, which wasn't so visible unless you really inspected the substrate carefully. It also reinforced the analogy between the cities of people, and the cities of bats.
This is the first truly large-scale piece I've ever done. A lot of people at the opening told me it reminded them of lichen, or fur, or leaves, or shelf fungi - all textures I'd hoped it would evoke. I really wanted the piece to be readable and interesting at a lot of levels, from the overall shape and appearance to the individual snippets of non-information legible on each bat.
So there it is! Many thanks to everyone who made it to the opening as well. If you are in Pittsburgh and didn't make it, I hope you can still get to see the piece. I'd welcome any comments or questions. Fe Gallery is open from 12 - 3 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and is located at 4102 Butler Street between Fisk and Main Sts. in Lawrenceville. Environmental Aesthetics will be up until November 6th.