Bird of Passage

PersephoneBakeryBlog_Sept16

With Fall Arts Festival fast approaching, Persephone proudly hosts Passages, an installation by Alpine artist Jenny Dowd sponsored by Jackson Hole Public Art.

The rare work of art takes on a life of its own, transcending the terms of its origin to become its own confident form of public expression. Passages has done just that: Conceived in response to an unfinished ceiling inside a JH gallery, the installation of suspended ceramic vessels now—years on—trumps structure by sailing between the boughs and beams that frame our Persephone patio.

From the start, Passages defied definition: Seven years ago, when Lyndsay McCandless invited Jenny Dowd to do an installation inside her beloved (now shuttered) gallery, the local artist imagined a piece that would play with the exposed ductwork crisscrossing the low ceiling, thereby transforming a space considered unsightly. Experimenting with forms, Jenny made one skeletal sculpture in steel and immediately realized she could say more in multiples. “I think one is interesting but multiples of this are very curious,” she says. “They can explore their space and ask more questions by being in a group.”

Thus conceived as a family of objects, Passages became Jenny’s first suspended installation—a painstaking feat considering each vessel dangled from thread linked to an eye hook hammered into the ceiling. A drawing in space, the installation changed throughout the day as shadows shifted and stretched. “I thought about it as an all-encompassing drawing that you could get lost in,” she remembers.

The sculptures themselves—numbering around 300—thwarted classification: Some saw falling leaves, others bats, fish or a Hades ferry. “They are a flock of something,” Jenny concedes. “It was neat because people saw something in them.” Saw with awe: people would move through the gallery agape in wonder.

From Jackson, Passages moved to the Lander Art Center, where Jenny wove a web of wire to sling the sculptures from the high ceiling. In this modern space, Passages felt “even more like a drawing,” an identity Jenny augmented by adding a series of ink drawings. After a season in Lander, Passages migrated back to Jackson for a group exhibition at the Art Association. In this iteration, the installation became minimal, employing only 60 some of the sculptures strung together by the deliberate drawing of a wire armature. Having worked with it for so long, Jenny felt she could be eloquent, using only two boats to say what she previously would have in 10. Eloquence indeed; in every space it’s graced, Passages speaks to curiosity.

As it does now at Persephone, congregating between the cottonwoods, embracing the elements, surprising customers with a moment of suspended awe. Aiming for subtlety, Jenny mapped out the Persephone schema over coffee with Carrie Geraci of Jackson Hole Public Art, who invited her to evolve Passages into the realm of public art or, as Jenny defines it, “art in unexpected places, art everywhere.”

In the context of our café, Jenny graciously sees Passages as building on our artful ambiance: “We have a certain type of aesthetic experience at Persephone; we go because it’s delicious and beautiful. But you don’t expect to find random art outside. Passages becomes an extra, unexpected experience, a moment or memory that’s part of your daily life.”

Having led multiple lives already, who knows where Passages will go post-Persephone…