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Downen’s installation invites viewers to slow down, rest

Jill Downen, Dust and Distance

Artist Jill Downen’s large-scale installations explore the bond between architecture and the body - and how our bodies help us understand the environment built around us.

So the artist will build an installation created specifically for the UNT Art Gallery, Dust and Distance, above, which will present "a fullness and an emptiness" in a space that will invite our bodies to take a rest, she says.

Jill Downen, artist"I’m going to ask viewers to come to the installation and slow down, to really exit a fast-paced culture where we are assaulted continuously by a flow of stimulation," Downen, left, says.

Downen will deliver a formal artist's lecture at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 in Eagle Student Services Center, and then will  lead a gallery talk at 6 p.m. Feb. 23. An opening reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 23 in the UNT Art Gallery.

In preparing for the installation, Downen made site visits to the UNT Art Gallery, taking measurements, photos and video and making a scale model.

In the second phase of her work, she experimented with the installation in her studio. The third and final phase is the on-site installation in the UNT Art Gallery. More than 1,400 pounds of plaster will be used in the exhibition, which will take about seven days to install. Although she has a plan in place when she begins the on-site installation, Downen says she allows herself "wiggle room" to make changes.

"It’s still a process until the very moment the installation is complete," she says.

She compares the process to giving birth, like when a mother sees the baby for the first time.

"Even though you feel you know the baby, you are physically encountering and seeing the baby for the first time," she says. "I think there can be a misconception that the artist knows everything and simply executes the work of art, but in reality, the artist is creating until the very moment she stops and recognizes its completeness and steps out. The complete and total understanding of it continues to be processed in the mind."

Tracee Robertson, UNT Art Gallery director, organized the exhibition.

"College of Visual Arts and Design faculty member Laura Beard, assistant professor of painting and drawing, introduced me to Jill Downen's work last spring before Jill visited UNT for the first time to give a lecture to our beginning art students," Robertson says.

In 2010, Downen was named a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow. Significant awards include a 2009 MacDowell Colony National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship with additional support from Leon Levy Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Downen maintains a studio in St. Louis, and is represented by the Bruno David Gallery. She earned a bachelor of fine arts from the Kansas City Art Institute and a master of fine arts as a Danforth Scholar from Washington University. 

 - Ellen Rossetti, News Promotions

(Photos courtesy of Bruno David Gallery.)

Posted on: Tue 07 February 2012

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