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'Unclaimed Space' exhibit comes to Benton

By Brian Passeri
On April 10, 2014

Tuesday afternoon, five UConn Masters of Fine Arts students exhibited their work at the Benton Museum of Art.
Entitled "Unclaimed Space," the exhibition includes a variety of mediums and styles, but the pieces all act cohesively to tell a larger story. Artwork was displayed by masters students Micah Cash, Julia DePinto, Jared Holt, Shane Morrissey and Reagen Elizabeth O'Reigaekn.
One of the most striking elements of the exhibition is the ability of the viewer to interact with a variety of the works. By far the largest installation, and located in the center of the exhibition, is O'Reigaekn's "Skeletal Structure of Jim Sanders's Magnum Opus." The work consists of a large wooden frame encased in plastic with a door welcoming viewers into the "Time Machine." Inside, the installation is almost bare, which draws attention to what sounds like a recording of heavy breathing being played from above.
On the object label, O'Reigaekn describes the backstory of the installation. Before dying of influenza in 1918, a man named Jim Sanders wrote a cryptic letter revealing the recipe for his "Magnum Opus" to a Miss Julia Bridgett Purcell, who killed herself three months later. The letter was sealed in a family photo album and was found by O'Reigaekn five generations later. She and her research team have hypothesized that the Magnum Opus was meant to be a time machine, and the shape of the structure was retained in the installation.
This piece, along with O'Reigaekn's work with her research lab, investigates fragmented artifacts and "contains metaphors of both hope and loss." The theme ties effortlessly with that of Unclaimed Space, especially the interactive installations of Jared Holt.
Holt's "Negative Writing" consists of a long piece of typewriter tape and a magnifying lens through which the viewer can read the inscribed message. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style, the work reveals the intimate subconscious thoughts of the artist as well as portrays a sense of vulnerability. The message is also written without spaces and often includes small misspellings, such as "that" being spelled as "that," which add to the effect. By forcing the viewer to read using a magnifier, one immediately gets the sense of spying into the inner workings of the artist's mind which, like the text, are messy and rushed.
Another one of Holt's works, entitled "Visualized Moments," consists of only a monitor, amplifier, microphone, CCTV camera and projector. In this installation, flashes of light appear on an on-screen recording in response to sounds made by the viewer. On Holt's object label, he describes his pieces as "exploring the dichotomies of intimacy, the work offers a relationship with the viewer, while at the same time obstructing the viewer from fully knowing my personal voice." In addition to providing a context, this description also ties the works together, as well as the greater theme of the exhibition.
"Unclaimed Space" will be exhibited until May 11 during regular museum hours Tuesday through Sunday.

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