Artist Mette Tommerup Brings Her Trilogy to a Close at Locust Project with Made by Dusk
ARTBURST MIAMI | JANUARY 26, 2021 | 8:00AM
Mette Tommerup Photo courtesy of Pedro Wazzan
Mette Tommerup’s large-scale installation at Locust Projects isn’t meant to merely exist. Her installations evolve through the visitors who interact with them, the space they are in, and the process that was used to create them, from inception to completion.
Made by Dusk is the last of a trilogy of installations that follow the pilgrimage of 40-by-12-foot canvases created in natural environments. Originally scheduled for display through January 23, it has been extended until February 13.
The canvases in Made by Dusk, perched on the gallery walls, show video projections of the Miami-based artist on the roof of the Locust Projects building throwing canvases off the sides and pulling canvases back up onto the roof.
“You are surrounded by videos of what it would be like to be on top of the building,” she says. “It is supposed to take you away.”
The projections — which videographer Pedro Wazzan shot from above at twilight, using a camera on a drone — document Tommerup’s process: how she “liberates” her canvases before they enter into a gallery space.
“For the first time, I was able to document pulling up all of the work onto the roof of the building and then, consequently, tossing the work down,” she says. “Why would I want to toss the canvas? The idea was to expose the work to the natural element of the time of the show: dusk. Floating it through the air, and the canvas being exposed to the night sky.”
The canvases in Made by Dusk went through a process of applied acrylic paint in gold and gray.
“Sometimes I use bundles of canvas and the canvases become the brush and I dip them in paint and then drag them, almost like dragging a body,” she says.
Tommerup liberates one of the Made by Dusk canvases as she tosses it off the side of the Locust Projects building at dusk. Photo courtesy of Pedro Wazzan
She puts the canvases through a number of paces in order to subject them to the elements. For Dusk, the canvases were put outside at twilight to soak in the timing, or she would do the handling of the canvases at that time.
This has been Tommerup’s process for all of the pieces in her three-year trilogy, which touches on the elements of water, earth, and air.
The first installment, 2018’s Ocean Loop, showed at the Emerson Dorsch Gallery in Little Haiti. The artist strung small oil paintings of the sea and submerged them in the ocean. Some broke free and disappeared, and the ones she reeled in were discolored and tattered by saltwater.
“I’m interested in thinking of the paintings themselves as if they have their own agency,” she says. “They are independent of me, and they are breathing and alive — off on an adventure out of the blue.”
The following year’s Love, Ur, which also showed at Emerson Dorsch, focused on the Earth. Tommerup buried the canvases. She crushed them into the ground, immersing them to create whatever the environment would “paint” on the canvas. After they made their way into the exhibition space, visitors were encouraged to drape themselves in the canvases or roll around in them, if they pleased.
Tommerup says she admires the work of the late 1960s and early ’70s — obviously influenced by the Fluxus artists of that time, a group of avant-gardes whose art was meant to be social and participatory rather than something to be viewed.
“I’m really interested about ideas that were brought forth in that time period that have to do with the dematerialization of the art object — what happens when you strip away everything down to only the idea behind the object,” she says.
The stepping-off point for Made by Dusk is Locust Projects’ emphasis on strong female artists for its 2020-2021 exhibition season, in conjunction with 2020 marking the centennial of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
“I am from a culture where women traditionally have been a lot more liberated and empowered than women in other places in the world, including the States for sure,” says Tommerup, who is originally from a small coastal town in Denmark. (She came to the United States to attend college in western Pennsylvania, then made her way to New York before settling in Miami in the 1990s.)
During Miami Art Week, “Luminal” invited participants to drip honey on dry ice during an activation for Made by Dusk at Locust Projects. Photo courtesy of WorldRedEye
For Made by Dusk, she was inspired by Freya, the Nordic goddess of love, beauty, and transformation who cried tears of gold. Tommerup wants the conversation that evolves from Made by Dusk and the influence of Freya to be “fueled by this otherworldly force, this divine entity. I needed something in the supernatural to work around for this project,” she confides.
“I wanted to bring in from another dimension a liberated, free-spirited entity.”
While the installation was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, its gilded and womblike atmosphere has added a place of refuge during a time of forced pause due to the coronavirus. Made by Dusk invites viewers to pause, but on their own terms.
The entrance to the exhibition is inspired by divine rays, a bit like a halo, ushering visitors into a space that at once is ancient but also post-modern. There are wooden benches suspended from the ceiling, and visitors are invited to sit and hover in time and space, bathed in golden light.
“With their feet slightly off the ground, the participant can locate an equilibrium that is empowering, disorienting, and a place of contemplation,” Tommerup says. “The goal is to encourage a sense of liberation and restoration in this troubling time.”
These participatory elements of the exhibition are an essential part of the experience, she says.
During Miami Art Week, an activation titled, “Liminal,” took place in Locust Projects’ parking lot. Starting at twilight, the performance included video projections of the massive canvases cascading down the side of the building. Blocks of dry ice were placed at the base, and attendees were encouraged to make a symbolic offering to Freya by dripping honey onto the dry ice.
“This created a hazy fog that captured the light and gave this cast of a warm, golden glow,” she says.
The intent went deeper than surface view: “While making the offering, they could contemplate their own wishes and desires.”
Two additional activations were planned for January.
– Michelle F. Solomon, ArtburstMiami.com
Mette Tommerup’s Made by Dusk. Through February 13, at Locust Projects, Locust Projects, 3852 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-8570; locustprojects.org. Admission is free. Public hours of exhibition are Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment and walk-in capacity.