Not Your Usual Art Opening

October 21st, 2012  |  Published in October 2012


Imagine an opening where people actually look at the art.
An opening without cheese, crackers, or wine.
And while you’re about it, an opening where everyone wears identical, almost snazzy, specially treated clear plastic glasses.

Got it? You could have been at the opening earlier this month of Gravity of Light, in the deconsecrated but undoubtedly atmospheric Holy Cross Church in Mount Adams.
Photographers were there: William Messer, Anita Douthat, others. Cincinnati Art Museum people were there: Aaron Betsky, Julie Aronson, Anita Ellis, Kristin Spangenberg, others. The show is sponsored by the Museum, another of the FotoFocus events flooding the city, but appears off-site rather than in its own already well-filled halls.

The twin Starn brothers, Doug and Mike, creators of Gravity of Light, were there, wearing close fitting suits, shirts with no ties, and one of them in enviably scuffed boots. Missed checking the foot gear of the other. They had arrived by cab several minutes after the official opening but were on hand when the arc light that is the animating feature of the exhibition flickered from Blinding to Nearly Gone. A twin quickly pushed a rolling ladder to the thirteen-foot column holding the light, but the flame (well, it seemed to be a flame but “arc light” really means current passing between electrodes) came back to life before he could mount it. Plastic eye glasses flashed again.

So what were people seeing through their plastic glasses?

The one-time monastery church has been stripped of just about everything but its dignity; that, the product of architecture itself, remains intact. Within this splendid if decrepit space the New Jersey-born, internationally recognized Starn brothers have installed – tactfully, ready to come down when the exhibition is over – huge images to further thoughts visitors might take away. The show is reviewed elsewhere in this issue so I will only say that the ideas I took away related to both inexorable change and the never-changing vital force of light; to life force countered by death, to nature pervasive beyond our grasp. That was all that I could handle, but others may have found more in the huge prints mounted against the church’s scarred walls.

The Museum’s press release is studded with words not often found in such communications: “ineffable,” “phenomenology,” “emblematize.” In fact, the text mounted in the entry way as the gallery label for the show I believe has exactly that wording. A photographer called my attention to the phrase “recorded in filigreed detail,” a kind of record he personally had never had call to use.

The scope of the installation does demand a high level of response, but don’t worry about ineffable or emblematizing or exactly what phenomenology might mean. Just go to Holy Cross Church, 1055 St. Paul Place, Mt. Adams and see what it does for you. Gravity of Light is open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday through December 30, no charge for admission.

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