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The beauties of feminism and collage

By Ariel Brand
On September 19, 2012


In the process of assembling her new body of work, "The Pedagogical Puppet: Projects by Sally Smart," for its Sept. 24 exhibition opening, Australia-native Sally Smart, the 2012 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Artist-in-Residence, has a great deal on her mind-editing film work, fortifying puppets, transporting more materials and preparing the voice script for her video. "We've got six days to go and we'll need every bit of it," Smart said.

Smart is an internationally recognized artist for generating large-scale wall installations constructed from a sundry list of materials, ranging from canvas and photography to collage and fabric cut-outs, which are then held together by pushpins. She relishes in the process of narrating stories through her work and the connections that inform that process. Through deconstructing and then piecing together historical events and political connections with traditional female activities, her narratives carry a feminist resonance, working to undermine social-constructed gender hierarchies.  In addition to the influences of the avant-garde movements Dada, Surrealism and Cubism, traces of modernist women artists like Hannah Hoch, Sophie Taeuber and Lyubov Popova transpire in her work.

While toying with the concept of making connections, Smart conceptualizes the process of deconstruction through the politics of cutting, the idea of transforming, creating collages and photo montages as well as rearranging them, which is often used in satire in order to reconstruct and amplify someone's view. Her work also investigates the notion of delicate cutting, which refers to a psychosis of self-harm, the need to cut as a method of catharsis.

"Cutting is a discussion in the mind with two puppets talking to each other about a particular process," Smart added.

 "The Pedagogical Puppet" will bring together a sequence of short films featuring puppets, including a puppet of Smart that will be created by the UConn Puppetry Program; a storyboard that displays the making of the exhibit such as scripts for the films, drawings and several other elements of the creation of the exhibition; and marionettes with motors suspended from the ceiling that play with light and shadows. The installations will extend the space of three rooms of the Contemporary Art Galleries.

Barry Rosenberg, curator of the Contemporary Art Galleries, offered Smart the opportunity to produce a multimedia work after visiting her 2011 exhibition "Flaubert's Puppets" at the Postmaster Gallery in New York City. With a grant, Rosenberg flew to Australia to discuss with Smart her new artistic undertaking at her studio, where she constructed a scale model of the Contemporary Art Galleries to map out her plan of development.

For the last month, she has been collaborating with UConn faculty, students and the various resources available within the School of Fine Arts, including the Puppetry Arts Program and Ballard Institute & Museum of Puppetry Arts as well as the Digital Media Center. Drawing from their expertise, Smart garnered new ideas for the project. "There's a huge amount of experimentation. Everything is open to flux and revision," Smart said. This collaborative endeavor served as a sort of invitation for Smart to delve into time-based media and performance, mediums that she had not explored before.

 "I've wanted to do my cut out work in a way that moves...what made me interested in choreography and dance is thinking about how do choreographers manifest the capacity of movement...and I thought about how can I visualize that beyond what I make," Smart said.

The exhibition reception of "The Pedagogical Puppet: Projects by Sally Smart" will take place on Monday, Sept. 24 from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Contemporary Art Galleries and will remain open through Oct. 27. The public is also invited to join the Sally Smart and Puppeteers Dialogue from 4-5 p.m.

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