A new exhibit at Kansas University explores one artist's forbidden territory.
As a child, artist Shari Bradt longed for privacy, yet she couldn't seem to resist touching "forbidden" objects.
This long-remembered dichotomy has inspired Bradt's master's degree thesis exhibition, "Content(s)," which opens Monday in Kansas University's Art and Design Gallery.
At the exhibit's core is a 72-by-54-inch installation titled "Packages," which Bradt says recalls childhood temptations of "boxes that are locked, drawers that are closed, pouches tucked up high on a closet shelf."
"I remember the small cylindrical vinyl pouch ... that sat up high on the top shelf of the closet in the room I shared with my older sister, and was easily reached by dragging over the vanity stool when no one was looking," Bradt recalled. "It was full of small treasures ... a miniature magical world that I wasn't supposed to touch."
"Packages," with its misshapen sealed plaster pouches and tiny sparkling vials, inspires that childlike curiosity: What lurks behind what we cannot see? Fragments from Bradt's journals on sheer tulle panels and a whitewashed collage add to the effect of obscurity.
The exhibit's other works reflect Bradt's developing concern with the "measures of my body in both space, time and shadow." This goes back to a time when she craved her own private place.
"I remember the day I asked my dad if I could have a place of my own somewhere in the house," she recalled. "He led me down to a small dugout beneath the basement stairs and pointed out the possibilities. ... It was the one place in the house that was mine; the one place everyone else had to ask permission to enter."
Bradt's adult space in the world is defined by several works. A sculpture of wrapped bands is precisely her size. A series of etched glass shadow boxes reflect Bradt's shape in various poses, which can be more or less distorted depending on the angle of the lighting.
An embellished plaster mold is the result of Bradt's pursuit of the question, "How much time would it take to dig a hole my body would fit into?" The answer, Bradt says, is one hour and 50 minutes and 110 handfuls of dirt. The cast was taken from a mold of the hole in the ground.
For Bradt's exhibit, the gallery's skylights will be covered so she can define the lighting within the space. Bradt, a Minnesota native who minored in psychology, said she hoped to create a tempting space.
"I've always been interested in forbidden territory," she said, "those places we're not supposed to go or we feel uncomfortable going into."
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