Eleanor Davidson was a little frustrated.
The wind had blown down her artwork, titled “Light Temple,” and she had to pick up the wooden pieces to rebuild the pyramid.
“It’s made of wood and plexiglass. It’s going to be 8 feet tall when it’s done,” the Western Kentucky University senior from Louisville said. “Our project was to build an outdoor installation piece. I thought about making a house or place of reflection because this is a peaceful place to be.”
Davidson is one of several WKU students working on installation pieces that will be outside the Downing Museum at 4801 Morgantown Road.
A reception will be from 5 to 7 p.m. April 15 at the museum. The art show is in conjunction with a display by their installation teacher, WKU associate art professor Kristina Arnold. A talk with Arnold and her reception will be from 6 to 8 p.m. May 4 at the museum. The artwork will be displayed through May 13.
Having installation artwork is a first for the museum, said Downing Museum Director Jack LeSieur.
“We’ve never had anything outdoors like this,” he said. “As far as I know we’ve never had anything inside.”
Installation art is an artform that is inspired by space as a material in the piece, LeSieur said.
“Typically in a painting you have oil on canvas or acrylic on canvas. (Here) you use the different pieces in the landscape and make it all work together,” he said. “It uses part of the space as an integral part of the art itself. When you’re looking at it it’s an experience because you kind of become part of the art.”
Arnold’s artwork, which is displayed indoors, isn’t necessarily new.
“These are selections of works from over the past four years. It feels like a homecoming because I haven’t seen it together,” she said. “I like how you can see them at the same time.”
For example, “Neuron Cloud” is made of surplus scientific glass. It was made in collaboration with a programmer who wrote the program to make it light up.
“It had been purchased and never used,” Arnold said of the glass. “They were just going to toss it.”
Arnold said she felt “honored” to have her art displayed at the museum.
“I never met Joe Downing, but I feel like he’s been an influence,” she said.
Megan Valjien, a senior from Logan County, placed large ceramic eggs on plastic plates, put straw around them and covered it all with leaning umbrellas.
“I haven’t come up with a title yet,” she said as she adjusted an umbrella that had been blown away by the wind. “It’s still a work in progress. It’s close to Easter so a lot of people associate them with Easter eggs, which is fine.”
Once she puts stakes in her work it will stay put. Valjien hopes that rain will melt the ceramic eggs, which she made and threw on a wheel, so that they deteriorate.
“In nature, humans cause a lot of hardships. It’s about people restoring what we’ve made hard for them,” she said. “Once the clay deteriorates it will stick to the ground so using plates is easier to clean up.”
The straw represents fallen nests, Valjien said.
“That’s where human intervention comes in, to help it out,” she said.
Valjien may fire some of the eggs so they don’t deteriorate, she said.
“I will leave some of them uncovered,” she said.
Davidson plans to have animal skulls, lace and twine on her piece. The plexiglass, of which there are 300 pieces, is rainbow-colored.
“I wanted people to think of religion, cathedrals, a church of nature,” she said. “I made a glaze out of paint on plexiglass.”
There will be a place to sit inside, Davidson said.
“The light will reflect the rainbow. It’s peaceful to reflect on the power of nature,” she said. “It’s like a little meditation area. I wanted to put it at the parking lot so you can see the rainbow. I’ll weatherize it so it stays up the whole month.”
The installation projects are for a class, and they are usually displayed around WKU’s Ivan Wilson Fine Arts Center, but Arnold wanted them to do something different this time, Davidson said.
“It helps us think of public installation rather than just art projects,” she said. “It’s really fun. I think it’s a great lesson.”