Environmental destruction and societal factors played on Assistant Professor Naomi J. Falk’s mind for nearly a year before her ideas came to fruition in a physical work of art. Falk is not native to South Carolina, and it is from this unfamiliar vantage point that she watched its coastal cities struggle in the wake of hurricanes and noticed the divisive dialogue surrounding climate issues.
Falk's solo art exhibition is an exploration of the current state of our natural environment and the role that society plays in its potential destruction or restoration. It is entitled "T/here" and officially opens on Thursday, Jan. 18 at McMaster College.
“Naomi J. Falk’s exhibition is a site-specific installation, meaning it was constructed in and for the space,” Kara Gunter, McMaster Gallery Manager, said.
The nature of the exhibition allows people to become submerged in the artwork, rather than looking at it from the outside.
Falk, who was selected for the exhibition from nearly 100 applicants, expressed gratitude for having a space to build and display her artwork in such an unconventional manner.
“Getting an opportunity to have a solo show where I can install a large-scale piece of whatever I want is relatively rare,” she said.
But beyond the fact that Falk gets to show her artwork to the public, it is the impact that she hopes it can have in sparking conversation and conveying messages about the world that human beings inhabit. Falk's exhibition is able to create a thought-provoking experience for viewers through her unconventional style of sculptures.
For example, “Disco Avalanche,” Falk’s main piece in the exhibition, is constructed with simple building materials — like wooden planks and cinder-blocks — indicative of her upbringing as the daughter of a builder. The sculpture mimics the structure of a rooftop, but also takes on the look of melting icebergs, both of which Falk associates with conversation surrounding the physical environment and ideas of what we call "home."
“I’m choosing the materials pretty purposefully. There’s an idea to each of them,” Falk said.
Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the work are the disco balls lit underneath the sheets, a representative of human efforts to find fulfillment in the present moment.
“What can we do to make our lives worthwhile and happy and friendly?” Falk asks. “But at the same time, is this a hollow thing? Because we’re disregarding then what's happening to the place that we live.”
But even as these darker questions are posed in Falk’s work, her intentional use of colorful materials — such as the disco balls — help lighten what is a constantly controversial dialogue.
Gunter, who is an artist herself, says that her role as gallery director allows her to work closely with artists and to draw inspiration from people like Falk, whom she particularly admired for these elements spontaneity and creativity that are made obvious to viewers in the exhibition.
“She is able to transform raw materials into thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing works of art. The resulting work is simple, effective, and arresting,” Gunter said
Ultimately, it’s this aesthetic simplicity in combination with thematic complexity that may allow Falk to achieve her artistic goals and open up communication about the climate.
“The playfulness and the whimsy of it and it makes it easier to talk about and think about, and friendlier, in a way,” Falk said.