Brooklyn-based artist Julie Schenkelberg resides in temporary environments. Her collaborative installation at the University of Akron’s Emily Davis Gallery took weeks to build but will only be viewable this weekend, Feb. 19 and 20.
“I’m an installation artist so I make temporary environments that totally envelop us, and in this case I’m making a piece that’s a collaboration with 10 students,” says Schenkelberg, whose abstract dreamscape literally fills the gallery space. “I use each of their memories as a foundation for the piece.”
Although it may seem counterintuitive to spend weeks of work to only showcase the work for two days before everything is torn down, the temporary nature offers the work an exclusive and elusive quality.
Throughout her residency, which began in January, Schenkelberg asked the students to visualize their memories, asking them what color they are, which structure they would look like, and what climate they would be in.
“I essentially taught the class how to make installations the way that I would do it, and it was a wonderful surprise,” she says.
Her work also features reclaimed materials, which is evident in the spare tires, branches, leaves and other items like painted drywall to create the effect of a waterscape.
Schenkelberg says at first she was worried that the piece would be disparate considering how many people were involved, but patterns and color schemes began to emerge.
“Each student has the assignment to make objects they could multiply, because I often use piles of objects to relate to memory,” she adds.
One student wanted to replicate a memory of working in the garden with his grandmother, so he incorporated live plants into the installation. Three or four artists combined their visions to create the pyramid — a centerpiece of the work.
Schenkelberg was born and raised in Cleveland, offering exposure to a certain Rust Belt aesthetic found in other Midwestern artists, and her background in creating theater sets helps add to the temporary aesthetic.
“My own work is about having a temporal experience with the viewer, something very special that is shared with the viewer,” she adds. “I like that shared experience and it makes it more precious in a way because it goes away.”
Schenkelberg’s work has been exhibited at Art Basel in Miami Beach and Asya Ginsberg Gallery, in New York. She’s currently the resident artist for one year with the curatorial group SiTE:LAB out of Grand Rapids, Mich., and one of her installations is currently on view at The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh.
The Emily Davis Gallery will host a free public reception on Thursday, Feb. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m., with a gallery talk by the artist at 6 p.m., and music by local Akron band, St. Joan.
The exhibit runs Friday, Feb. 19 and Saturday, Feb. 20. The Gallery is located at the Myers School of Art, 150 E. Exchange St.