Press Release: Above is Below

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program

For Immediate Release: November 22, 2004



Minneapolis—The Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP) present an exhibition of spiritually based works by contemporary Minnesota artists Sarah Chokyi Bauer and David Hamlow. The artists’ distinct bodies of work have each evolved out of their own meticulously defined daily practice. The exhibition will feature an installation of repetitive images of meditation prostrations by Bauer, who holds sacred Buddhist ritual at the core of her artistic inquiry, and a structure built by Hamlow, who records his daily life by saving, sorting, and arranging the commercial packaging and debris of his daily consumption.

Sarah Chokyi Bauer is a multimedia artist who works primarily in performance, photography, video, sound, and digital media. Her path as an artist is inseparable from the practice of Tibetan Buddhism. Bauer’s primary practice is a meditation called ngondro. This practice incorporates the essence of all basic meditation techniques in condensed form and involves five different sections of a prescribed ritual action. Bauer has made the commitment to complete all five sections, each involving a hundred-thousand actions, including the repeated prostration of her physical body to the Buddha.

Merging her practice as a Buddhist and artist, Bauer documents her ritual with digital technology, capturing hundreds of thousands of frames in each taping session of prostrations. Using her computer to edit and transpose the frames, Bauer exports her digital images to panoramic grids of varying lengths. For the digital prints featured in “Above is Below,” Bauer allowed her computer to select and order images within a prescribed set of mathematical perameters. She then sized and printed the scrolls for the MAEP gallery. Viewed up close, there is a sense of moving through time and space with the artist but considered at a distance, the details within the grid cease to hold figurative meaning and ripple with a luminous honeycombed pattern of pure light and form.

Born in rural central Minnesota, Hamlow grew up in a family and a community where the practice of Christianity was predominant. Hamlow maintains a deep and abiding Christian faith, and plays out his spiritual and moral position in the most basic physical realm—the trash of his daily life. One of the works he presents is a geodesic dome constructed entirely from his own used cardboard and plastic containers. The giant dome is a colorful array of soup, ice cream, and potato chip containers. These objects not only played some role in his life, but they are also the residual record of the life he has lived. “I’m not making things, I’m transforming things,” he says.

Located within the dome is Hamlow’s second piece, a mysterious work about the Old Testament’s prophet Ezekial. For Hamlow, this piece represents the role both art and faith have played in his life. Intrigued with the opportunity to show something that is not of this world, Hamlow depicts Ezekial’s vision of angels through a set of illuminated phototransparencies of chalkboard drawings. He employed a time-based process to create the work, drawing with chalk on slate marked with a prescribed pattern of interlocking circles reminiscent of stained-glass windows, digitally documenting the pattern and erasing the image over and over again, yielding a light-filled flipbook of Hamlow’s daily practice.

A free public tour with the artists is scheduled for Sunday, December 19, at 3 P.M. A Critics’ Trialogue featuring Patricia Briggs will be Saturday, January 15, 2005, at 3 P.M.

Sarah Chokyi Bauer’s work is made possible in part by a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

MAEP is a curatorial department of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts made possible by generous support from the Jerome Foundation.