Three dimensional, collaborative piece on display in “Continuum” Art Gallery

Artists Jennifer Caine and Rachel Hellmann debuted their collaborative piece “Continuum” on Monday, Feb. 21 in the University of Indianapolis Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Gallery.  “Continuum” is on display from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays until March 18.

According to Caine, “Continuum” is the fourth collaborative piece between Hellmann and herself and was made specifically for the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Gallery.  It is a three-dimensional sculpture piece made of open wooden cube frames covered in black paper.

The gallery’s main purpose, in addition to bringing art to campus, is to serve as a teaching gallery.  That element is important to Chair and Associate Professor of Art and Design Jim Viewegh.

“We choose artists and exhibitions that somehow teach our students about the art world, or different artists in that,” Viewegh said.

According to Viewegh, “Continuum” can teach students how to work collaboratively.

“Continuum,” a site-specifc collaborative installation, is on display in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. Photo by Shane Collins-Yosha
“Continuum,” a site-specifc collaborative installation, is on display in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. Photo by Shane Collins-Yosha

“They had to communicate with each other. They had to compromise with each other. They had to understand each other’s aesthetics,” he said.

“Continuum” was inspired by the reactions of younger visitors to a previous collaborative piece by Caine and Hellmann displayed at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, Mass., Hellman said.

“We were particularly intrigued by the younger, school-age kids that came through the exhibit,” she said.  “It made us want to create a piece that was particularly playful and encouraging of an inquisitive response of wonder and play.”

The artists used common materials — in addition to their knowledge of color, light, and surface—to transform the gallery into an immersive, imaginative environment.  Freshman pre-art therapy and psychology major Reagan Moorman seized the opportunity for imagination and immersion.

“From a conceptual standpoint, it [‘Continuum’] is really cool, because the blocks are supposed to symbolize building blocks for children, how they stack and make things bigger,” Moorman said.  “I like to imagine a small child playing with them.”

Work on “Continuum” began in November of 2015, when Caine flew to Indianapolis from her home in New Hampshire.  After spending a day in the gallery brainstorming and talking through ideas, Caine and Hellmann decided to create a piece that took advantage of the gallery’s space.

“I love the scale of the piece, enabled by the very high ceilings of the gallery,” she said.  “I also love the opportunity it provided us to approach it like a three-dimensional painting in space and to find painterly moments of surprise.”

The next step was to decide on the subject-matter of the piece.

“We conceived the idea of stacking cubes, and both agreed on the color black — a rich color in its own right, though often considered a ‘non-color,’ and an opportunity to play off the warm wood tones and light in the gallery,” Caine said.

Caine and Hellmann worked on elements of “Continuum” individually in their own studios and then returned to UIndy the week before the exhibition opened to assemble it. During those days, UIndy students were able to interact with Caine and Hellman and help them finish the piece.

“I found it particularly engaging during the last couple of work days that we had in the gallery. It was challenging to think of how the color and mark-making related from multiple views of the piece,” Hellmann said.

Both Hellmann and Caine hope that those who view “Continuum” find the experience as rewarding as it was to make it.

“I hope people enjoy experiencing the piece and will find walking through the gallery an immersive, playful experience that will spark their natural curiosity and sense of wonder,” Caine said.

Those who want to see more art can visit the Student Gallery in Schwitzer 011. The next exhibition in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Gallery is the annual Student Art Exhibition, which will open on April 4.