Storefront galleries: Mirrors, tags transformed in Durham Storefront Project

Apr. 11, 2013 @ 03:31 PM

Sarah goetz – an artist who works in sculpture, painting, film and other media – was recently perfecting her new installation work, titled “how to meet in the middle when you are moving from left to right.” 
“I’m basically reinventing the piece because it didn’t satisfy me,” goetz said as she worked on the piece in the lobby of Manbites Dog Theatre. The sculpture is now installed in Mercury Studio at 407 A N. Mangum St.
Artist Meg Stein has been transforming the four windows at 108 Morris St. Visitors earlier this week saw the workings of “Reflect,” made up of mirrors, chairs and metal. When completed, the windows of the building will include a quote from English priest John Ball (1338-1381), “When Adam delved and Eve span / Who was then the gentleman?”
The installations from goetz and Stein are among four that will be part of the newest Durham Storefront Project. Other artists with works on view are Tamara Galiano Bagnell (212 W. Main St.) and André Leon Gray (106 W. Parrish St.). All four pieces will be on view beginning with this weekend’s Durham Art Walk and Spring Market, continuing through May 11.
“How to meet” is made with 15,000 tags fastened to a thin mesh fabric, 50 lights, 14 words printed on tags, and two armchairs. “You can get in it,” goetz tells a reporter during a visit. The tags make a soft, clattering sound. “That sound that happens when you sit in it is what I built it for,” goetz said. 
The sculpture is interactive in several ways. The words hanging from the center only make sense when two people read them alternately in order, forming a verse. At Manbites, goetz was working to perfect the mechanism that will run several small electric fans that will make the sculpture move. Goetz compares the potential movement to making the piece dance, or to turning the piece into a “reactive [musical] instrument.” Visitors to Mercury will be able to touch a small black and white painting goetz did using reactive paint. By touching the paint (which has plastic covering it), the viewer activates a current that makes the fans operate.
This is goetz’s second storefront installation. Her first was at the Franklin Hotel in Chapel Hill in October. She likes to make two different types of installation art – pieces that “make you feel hugged,” and pieces that “make you feel free.” One of her purposes with “how to meet” is to see what happens when the viewer is given “all the power” to react as he or she sees fit.
She studied public art as a student in New York, and likes finding art in unexpected places.
“As a Durham-based artist, I feel like I have a good sense of community here,” she said. But what is missing is what she calls “street exposure” to public art. “What this does for me is make it fun and approachable for people who might not go otherwise,” goetz said.
Stein, an MFA student at UNC Chapel Hill, did a previous installation titled “Flight” at the corner of Market and Chapel Hill Streets. The Storefront Project appeals to her because “I like art that intersects with the everyday, and breaks down those barriers,” Stein said. Seeing art in public places challenges people in ways they may not be challenged in a gallery, she said.
The quote from Ball was one inspiration for “Reflect.” Ball was an early believer in egalitarianism, and the quote is associated with a 1381 peasants’ revolt that Ball championed. Stein said her art and sculpture recently has addressed difficult social issues, such as gun violence and racism.
In “Reflect,” she uses second-hand mirrors, along with chairs and aluminum framing for ceiling tiles that she found in the Morris Street building, and has arranged them in a way that visitors “see things other than what they expect to see,” she said. The mirrors also call into question assumptions we might make when we meet a person – perhaps our reflections are wrong?
Stein also likes to allow for flexibility when she creates an installation. “I’ve had this space in mind for a while. My ideas for this space have changed over time,” she said.
In an earlier version of the work, she set up the mirrors in a different way, but passers-by did not seem to notice. She changed the configuration, “and now everyone looks,” Stein said.
“Reflect” was still a work in progress earlier this week. “I’m excited to see how it turns out,” Stein said.  
The Durham Storefront Project encourages creative use of underused or even abandoned buildings by artists. All of the works that go on view this weekend were designed for their specific buildings.

A free public talk will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday at The Carrack Modern Art, 111 W. Parrish St.