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ISSUE 118 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/12/2004

Dell, Griep mix puppets, sculptures, sacred spaces

By Ben Mlodzik
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 12, 2004

The newest exhibit to grace the spaces of Flaten Museum features recent artwork by Associate Professors of art and art history Mary Griep and Irve Dell. The exhibit, which opened on Monday and will run through Dec. 15, displays Grieps large-scale mixed media drawings of sacred French and Southeast Asian buildings. Dells sculptures, borrowed from a collaborative object and puppet theater production, are the most prominent of his contributions to the exhibit.

Each of Grieps drawings is composed of several sections and is impressive in both size and detail; many works were inspired by Grieps own experiences at the cathedral at Chartres, Angkor Wat and the temple of Thatbinynyu in Myanmar, both of which are 11th century constructions.

In visiting both Thailand and Myanmar, Griep was struck not only by the immense size of the buildings, but also by their sacred nature and beautiful detail. To experience such buildings, she said, [one] must walk past them and through them and meditate on them as one goes. It was this same act of meditation that Griep wanted to convey with her large, detailed pictures.

It is impossible to take in one of Grieps pieces all at once. Viewers are encouraged to walk past them, study each detail, and to step back again to see the entire piece with newfound perspective. Exhibit-goers will likely be awed by the variety of media used in Grieps drawings  from pencil, to ink, to watercolor, to collage  each of which demonstrates the resourceful application of the few art supplies Thailand had to offer Griep during her visit.

Certainly, viewers will see the result of months and months of constant eight-hour workdays that Griep endured while traveling through the countries portrayed in her artwork. Art lovers will especially appreciate the concept of what Griep herself experienced  a personal encounter with what she characterized as undoubtedly sacred spaces.

The other half of the exhibit can be best described as a documentation of one of Dells collaborative works of art. Dell, who has spent the past six or seven years creating publicly-commissioned art, recently went in a different direction and teamed up with his wife, playwright Kira Obolensky, and others to create a puppet-theater production entitled Quicksilver.

Dell designed the featured sets, props and puppets for Quicksilver. The play itself, which is displayed in video form as part of Dell and Grieps exhibit, is a unique work in which actors become puppeteers, and interact with objects and characters which one might characterize as sculptures brought to life.

This form of theater has been an exciting venture for Dell. [Puppet theater] allows things that are impossible in live theater, Dell said.

Quicksilver ran for a few weeks in Minneapolis in 2003, and Dell said he and his colleagues are seeking new venues in which to show the production in the future.

For now, Dells Flaten exhibit offers the closest approximation to seeing the performance live. Viewers can watch the production video and see the puppets in action, as well as examine the artistic merit of the puppets themselves. Dells video, puppets and sketches from the development of Quicksilver all contribute to a truly fascinating, humorous and striking work of art.

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