Opening in time for the start of spring semester, “The Way of Things,” a multimedia solo exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Melanie Nakaue, is the newest installment of the Harris Gallery.
The exhibition’s main pieces, three stop motion animation videos, are projected onto three walls of the gallery.
In perfect synchronization, an audio track plays a recording of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Nature the Gentlest Mother.”
The poem is recited by Nakaue herself, whose voice was altered to make her sound like a child.
“The poem is a direct relationship between the ideas that I had for making a show,” Nakaue said.
She credited the inspiration for the show to her experience of being, as of six months ago, a new mother.
“The whole show is really about those ideas of motherhood and a sense of your own mortality, as well as this idea of really becoming one with nature, and that life and death process too,” Nakaue said.
The first video piece, “The Gentlest Mother 2013,” displayed typical still life subjects: a skull, bananas and red flowers.
Throughout the two-minute video, a worm slithers around the skull, the flowers wilt, the bananas brown with age and an insect and a mouse inspect the scene.
“Reincarnate 2013,” the second video, begins with a close-up of a coarse, brown surface.
From the surface, the image pulls back to reveal a brown hand waving against an orange background.
Eventually, many waving brown hands appear and form into a leafless tree.
The final animation is “Becoming 2013,” in which a small, green shrub pivots against a background of life like green foliage.
The video closes in on a close-up of the shrub’s single brown eye.
The image zooms out, and the pivoting shrub is shown again, as the process repeats.
All of Nakaue’s animation pieces are made from wire, painting tape and acrylic paint.
“The materials are very basic,” Nakaue said. “I really wanted it to have a dialogue with the content to the still life.”
The pieces are also inspired by 17th century Dutch still life.
“They modernize not using only contemporary techniques, but also view nature in a much different perspective,” said professor of humanities Al Clark.
“These will be here forever,” Clark said. “They will maintain their brilliance, but it’s hard to tell because technology is changing so quickly. So they, in some ways, are representative of what they show: that is, the transitory nature of life.”
Nakaue received her master of fine arts from the California Institute of the Arts in 2004 and her bachelor of arts from Scripps College in art and art history in 2001.
Students at the gallery reception were perplexed, yet impressed with the exhibition.
“It makes me think of time passing,” said junior art and psychology major Danielle Zamora.
Ana Lopez, freshman Spanish major, offered a different analysis on Nakaue’s pieces.
“I think it’s kind of political because of the way we’re treating our earth with pollution.,” Lopez said.
“It’s pretty provocative once you read what [Nakaue] says, because it’s sort of that idea that nothing lasts forever,” she said.
Dion Johnson, director of university Art Galleries, met Nakaue through an artist that had exhibited in Harris Gallery before.
“One of the wonderful things about working with good artists that have done exhibitions is that you are able to meet other great artists,” Johnson said.
“The Way of Things” runs through March 14.
Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by appointment.
Kristina Bugante can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.