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caminando inesperadamente

Tuesday, October 04, 2005–Saturday, October 22, 2005

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In caminando inesperadamente at Gallery 400, Gisela Insuaste creates a dense environment of sculptural structures and wall drawings, which she constructs and draws while wearing stilts of various heights. Visitors wind their way through the gallery viewing through, around, and over precarious four-legged wooden structures that often reached as high as the ceiling. With this project, Insuaste examines how shifts in perspective and scale challenges her control over her working process and results in objects that can transform our perception of a space.

Insuaste takes inspiration from experiences and places that hinge on a relationship between man-made architectural forms and natural geological forms. She works to create an experience “of being suspended, reaching upward, looking down, looking up, craning my neck in search of something, seeing things from a different perspective, helpless yet powerful in so many ways.” About her structures, Insuaste writes:

“…these forms may resemble shelters or lookouts (miradores)…. They are many-legged structures, elongated stilts held together by tension ‘drawn ’ tightly by wire wrapped around wooden rods. Each structure is a fragment of the landscape we see and feel: one that is constantly shifting, interactive, and dynamic.”

In her essay Space/Travel, art historian and independent curator Annie Morse wrote of Insuaste ’s exhibition:

“Caminando inesperadamente” may be loosely translated as “walking unexpectedly,” but its roots lie in “esperanza,” or “hope.”  When speaking with Insuaste, one is bombarded with ideas and interrogations. It is this questioning that provides hope: as long as there are answers still to be found, then the fragile structures on which we depend for understanding will provide support as the imagination makes its ascent.

Gisela Insuaste has exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center (2005), Bucket Rider Gallery (2005), the Hyde Park Art Center (2004), and Polvo Art Studio (2004), among others. She is a recipient of several art and research grants, including the recent 2004 Richard H. Driehaus Emerging Individual Artist Award, an Illinois Arts Council Visual Art Award, and the Vermont Studio Center Full Fellowship Award. Insuaste received an MFA in 2003 from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

caminando inesperadamente was commissioned as one of the projects in the 2005 At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago
series.

Related:

ARTIST BIOGRAPHY

Gisela Insuaste Head ShotGisela Insuaste (born 1975) is a visual artist and educator. She is currently the Nature and Art Programs Manager at Wave Hill, a cultural center and public garden in the Bronx, New York City. She is responsible for the conceptualization and implementation of public programs with an emphasis on environmentally-based art, wellness, and nature studies. Insuaste ’s art is based on real and imagined places that explore the intersection of architecture, topography, and memory. She has participated in various exhibitions and projects nationwide: at John and June Allcott Gallery, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Vox Populi, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Satellite Gallery, University of Texas, San Antonio; Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art, Newark, New Jersey; Aicon Gallery, New York; Cuchifritos Gallery, New York; ABC No Rio, New York; Queens Museum of Art, New York City; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign; and Gallery 400, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Bucket Rider Gallery, Thomas McCormick Gallery, Chicago. Gisela is a recipient of several grants and awards, including The Richard H. Driehaus Emerging Individual Artist Award (Chicago), Illinois Arts Council Artist Grants, and MacDowell Colony Artist Fellowships. In 2008, she was included in the international art book The Upset: Young Contemporary Art by Die Gestalten Verlag, a resource of artists working with visual subcultures. Recent exhibitions include 2nd Floor Gallery, Chicago; Trinity Church Museum, New York; and Praxis Art Gallery, Miami/New York. In 2011, she was selected to participate in El Museo del Barrio’s Bienal: The (S) Files 2011, New York. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Gisela Insuaste received an MFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BA in Anthropology and Studio Art from Dartmouth College.

PRINT COLLATERAL

Booklet: caminando inesperadamente

Exhibition Essay

Space/Travel

Annie Morse

Tangling spindly dowels and stiff black wire, twisting perspectives to her purpose with appropriations of scale, Gisela Insuaste creates landscapes of possibility and peril.

It might seem an overstatement to include peril as a characteristic of an exhibition; what danger could lie here? But be careful, as you walk through this land. Accidents occur, and if you have not seen one of Insuaste ’s installations fall, you have not yet experienced all that contemporary art can offer. Horror mingles with a kind of existential schadenfreude as the pieces tip, touch, and finally fall earthward with the soft sound of fire catching hold. In disarray, the work lies like an elegant, enormous game of pick-up-sticks, and Rumpelstiltskin himself could not spin this mess back into the gold Insuaste mined.

If this installation at Gallery 400 at the University of Illinois at Chicago seems irresistibly inspired by the city skyline to the east, that skyline is not the only source. Chicago is simply one stop in a long series of wanderjahre during which Insuaste has traveled, looked at things and places, and taken stock of her relation to them. Born in the United States to Ecuadorian parents, Insuaste eludes easy ethnic identification. Is she an immigrant or a resident? A native American or a Native American? How deep do roots go when one is encouraged, if not always permitted, to range the world at will, traveling throughout North and South America, taking in sights, climbing mountains, traversing deserts, looking over the canopies of jungles. Can one achieve that sense of common humanity that everyone espouses but so few embody?

Working on-site and like a fiend possessed, Insuaste fits wood with wire ganglia, constructing bodies and buildings from materials found in the echoing aisles of the hardware store. A compact, trim figure herself, Insuaste ’s sculptures act as extensions of her body and our own, allowing us to imagine life as seen from a very great height. While the lookout towers above our heads may suggest surveillance and control, Insuaste also reckons them as sources of inspiration and diversion, calling to mind distant locations from which great tracts of land or opportunity may be seen and comprehended. Do we hold what we can see, if only in our mind ’s eye? Insuaste offers us dominion over interior worlds, but it ’s no picnic traversing them.

The landscape in which these towers figure is both real and imagined. In works completed as a graduate student, the human presence was implied through ramshackle communities of fragile dwellings, outbuildings, and refuse, crafted on a dollhouse scale and linked with kinks of wire. These past installations provoked ambiguous responses that were wholly intended: were we to coo over the smallness of the structures, or fear crushing them with a false step? The Quichua deity known as Pachamama asserts herself in this connection. An earth goddess recast by 17th century Europeans as an understudy for the Virgin Mary, Pachamama wields power of both creation and destruction. While her role in the perpetuation of both the human race and its agricultural crops is manifested in her female form, Pachamama also controls that fertility of the imagination that gives rise to human industry and endeavor. It is this imagination that causes us to work, to wander, and to seek out the unexpected. It seems, too, that the imagination is stronger when it relies less on the concrete and more on flexibility and resilience.

As Insuaste ’s work has developed over the past few years, she has turned the tables on herself in constructing her gigantes—towers bearing platforms that rise high above her head. Balancing two feet above the ground on industrial stilts, she links the towers with wire, and from this vantage point she then draws the structures with pencil high on an adjacent wall. Insuaste has become the performer as well as the author in her narrative. While she determines where the towers stand and how tall they will be, in seeking to tame them, she is also humbled by their size and, on stilts, shares their inherent instability. During the exhibition of caminando inesperadamente, Insuaste has continued to amend and embellish her installation, acknowledging the transitory nature of physical properties and the additive imperative of experience.

Drawing plays a central role in Insuaste ’s work, whether as a line inscribed with ink on a wall or page, or in the mass of shadow lines cast on the walls and floor by sticks and wires. These immersive environments recall both the city and the forest, forcing us to move as carefully and attentively as an explorer in unknown territory. The acid green and yellow palette of her works on paper and board gave way to pink, turquoise, and aquamarine elements in previous multimedia installations; here, the severity of the white-walled room is defied by steel-colored wrappings and the pale froth of wood shavings collected in a pile. Insuaste is influenced by the Surrealists de Chirico and Tanguy. Giacometti, too, is present in her works, his elongated human figures suggested by the legs and heads of the gigantes, while the obsessive, reiterated lines of his later graphic works are echoed in the accumulations of binding wires that Insuaste integrates in the final work.

Caminando inesperadamente may be loosely translated as “walking unexpectedly,” but its roots lie in “esperanza”, or “hope.” When speaking with Insuaste, one is bombarded with ideas and interrogations. It is this questioning that provides hope: as long as there are answers still to be found, then the fragile structures on which we depend for understanding will provide support as the imagination makes its ascent.

****

Annie Morse, Space/Time, October, 2005.

This essay was distributed in the gallery during the run of the exhibition.

PRESS RELEASE

Gisela Insuaste
caminando inesperadamente

Gallery 400
Chicago, IL
An At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago project
October 4–22, 2005

Opening Reception: October 5, 2005, 5–8 pm
Artist Talk: October 12, 2005, 4:30 pm

With caminando inesperadamente, Gisela Insuaste creates a dense environment of sculptural structures and wall drawings while wearing stilts of various heights. Visitors will wind their way though the gallery viewing through, around, and over precarious four-legged wooden structures that often reach as high as the ceiling. With this project, she examines how shifts in perspective and scale challenge her control over her working process and result in objects that transform our perception of a space.

Insuaste takes inspiration from experiences and places that hinge on a relationship between man-made architectural forms and natural geological forms. She works to create an experience “of being suspended, reaching upward, looking down, looking up, craning my neck in search of something, seeing things from a different perspective, helpless yet powerful in so many ways.” About her structures, Insuaste writes:

“…these forms may resemble shelters or lookouts (“miradores”)…. They are many-legged structures, elongated stilts held together by tension “drawn” tightly by wire wrapped around wooden rods. Each structure is a fragment of the landscape we see and feel: one that is constantly shifting, interactive, and dynamic.”

Gisela Insuaste has exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center (2005), Bucket Rider Gallery (2005), the Hyde Park Art Center (2004), and Polvo Art Studio (2004), among others. She is a recipient of several art and research grants, including the recent 2004 Richard H. Driehaus Emerging Individual Artist Award, an Illinois Arts Council Visual Art Award, and the Vermont Studio Center Full Fellowship Award. Insuaste received an MFA in 2003 from School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Established in 2002, the At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago series showcases new works by Chicago artists that push the boundaries of art experimentation and that are notably difficult to show in commercial spaces. Six artists or artist collaborations have been selected to present projects expressly made for At the Edge exhibition that include curated exhibitions/projects, solo gallery exhibitions and, new to the program last year, public projects for location on the UIC campus. An essay commissioned from a local critic, writer, or historian will accompany all At the Edge projects.
At the Edge: Innovative Art in Chicago is supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago.
The Daryl Gerber Stokols and Jeff Stokols Fund provides general support to Gallery 400 programs.

ARTIST’S WRITING

My thoughts?

Gisela Insuaste

How do I begin but to say that I create work that is inspired and informed by the interconnectedness of people, places, and things in my life and in my personal landscape? By things with stories, by people with stories, by places with stories. How do we, as active creatures, move in and out of these landscapes, what is our story as we travel in our landscape? What does that internal landscape look like?

I want to create that internal landscape…. of being high above, of being a precarious little thing that hovers above people, of being suspended, reaching upward, looking down, looking up, craning my neck in search of something, seeing things from a different perspective, helpless yet powerful in so many ways. Am I perched above the Pachamama who awaits my collapse with open arms, or looking up at something unattainable, waiting for something to happen? How far will I fall? How high will I climb? Why is it inevitable that I will fall or reach upward to hold onto something…and thus bring about a change in our space, movement that may cause your downfall, our downfall? Why create these installations that can fall into themselves? Because they provide a space for hope. To continue to create, to build, to connect. To accept what is now, what is present? To let go. What is precious is that process of connecting, the “hilo” de la vida. A thread that connects each of us to each other, to a place that shifts and transforms itself over and over again.

In my recent travels, I have experienced things and places that hinge on the relationship between the man-made and the natural architectural forms that exist in our everyday landscape—and our emotional response to these forms, which emphasize the precariousness of our own existence and interconnectedness with people, places, and things.

Houses on stilts, boats on stilts, mountains on stilts?

We live in a fragmented society—a society that is disconnected yet claims unity in voice and thus power. In our personal idealism, there is hope in the power of the masses, in the power of change. Each fragment is part of a whole, and the whole makes up our landscape. And just as easily as we can create and build community, we can easily, through our inability to communicate across borders, break down, and bring about our own devastation, our own self-destruction. We create tensions in that space in-between.

Perhaps in this installation, these forms may resemble shelters or lookouts (“miradores”). I call them “mis gigantes” (“my giants”) because, although large and looming and intimidating, I can now play with them, or at least pretend I have tamed them. They are structures that I do not always have control over—they are left to their own devices—to a passerby’s leftover breeze, the ceiling fan, the stillness that hiccups in silence, to the world ’s movement. They are many-legged structures, elongated stilts held together by tension “drawn” tightly by wire wrapped around wooden rods. Each structure is a fragment of the landscape we see and feel: one that is constantly shifting, interactive, and dynamic.

I am awed by these large structures. Humbled by their presence, structures whose tops I cannot reach. Wanting. Wanting to touch the sky, to be perched above and to look down, not in discontent at what is happening below, but to float, to escape, to navigate through another space, another level of interaction, literally a heightened level of experience—I will wear stilts to create some of the pieces as well as wear them in situ—as I create drawings on paper (perhaps extend onto the walls), as I move through the space, observing the world from various perspectives, documenting my progress, my unexpected wanderings in this landscape, this roomful of gigantes.

A performative piece that plays off the precariousness of the space I created and my own state of being—I myself will become vulnerable, I myself will be perched…in search of hope? For change? Enlightened?

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

caminando inesperadamente is supported by the College of Architecture and the Arts, University of Illinois at Chicago, and a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Special thanks to the jury that selected the 2005 At the Edge projects: Tricia Van Eck (Associate Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), Marc Fischer (artist), Julia Fish (artist and University of Illinois at Chicago faculty member), and Lorelei Stewart (Director, Gallery 400), and Barb Wiesen (Director, Gahlberg Gallery at College of DuPage).

EXHIBITION CHECKLIST

Gisela Insuaste

caminando inesperdamente, 2005
Sculptural installation with wall drawings