Interaction without ego: sarah goetz's Just Between Us opens at Durham's Carrack Gallery | Arts

Interaction without ego: sarah goetz's Just Between Us opens at Durham's Carrack Gallery


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The circle and the square. This phrase recalls Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man notebook drawing, in which he exemplifies the proportional relationship that the Roman architect Vitruvius asserted as optimally connecting man to the structures around him.

by how to each other we hold (2012), suspended paper installation, sarah goetz
Durham artist sarah goetz also uses circles and squares to foster connections in her multimedia installation Just Between Us, now on view at the Carrack Modern Art Gallery through June 7. For goetz, however, the connections are not architectural but aspire to be interpersonal.

It would be difficult to find a young artist more sincere and intentional than goetz. She works in many different media—this show includes 16mm film, watercolor paintings, a sculptural installation and performance. Playing the art field like this is common for student artists, of course. goetz, however, differentiates herself in that the media are all put at the service of her ideas, rather than the other way around.

The circle figures in all of the work in Just Between Us. More than 30 square watercolor paintings are scattered about the gallery walls. At first glance, they appear to have been done on a turntable with the paper rotating and color being applied with light, jabbing brushstrokes from above. The compositions are, without exception, circular and centered. But on second glance, when your eyes enter the compositions, goetz’s meticulousness emerges. And as you get closer—uncomfortably close enough to breathe on the paper—you enter a sub-meticulousness. Words and phrases nestle into the painted shapes in infinitesimally small fountain-pen lettering.

from to leave your unconditional love out for a stranger to find (2012), watercolor series, sarah goetz
  • Photo by Chris Vitiello
  • from "to leave your unconditional love out for a stranger to find" (2012), watercolor series, sarah goetz
The paintings as a whole are called to leave your unconditional love out for a stranger to find, which speaks to this drawing-in relationship that goetz has tried to implement. Looking at these paintings is necessarily intimate. To read the text, you are so close that nothing but the painting is in your visual field. It feels like you might fall into the composition’s circularity.

The paintings aren’t the first thing you interact with, however. A maelstrom of watercolor paper scraps suspended by threads entitled by how to each other we hold fills the width and height of the rectangular gallery, measuring 30-by-14-by-10 feet. You cannot help but enter the nonthreatening vortex. As you walk its hurricane spiral to the eye, which rises to touch the gallery ceiling, the air you displace gently pushes at the scraps. It’s fluid. Or skin-like. The gallery walls all but disappear.

My instinct was to lie down on the floor, positioning my head at the center of the eye. With Durham ga-ga over Alexander Calder because of the ongoing show of his work at Duke’s Nasher Museum of Art, I couldn’t help but wonder why Calder never filled a room with his shapes. He stayed sculptural, but goetz has gone spatial. You are in the mobile’s radius, which makes you into one of its elements.

goetz also works with film—not just video but hand-painted, camera-less 16mm film. There’s a setup called the audience’s present at the far end of the gallery, against the frontage windows, that includes two chairs facing each other, a digital camera on a tripod and a 16-mm projector with a yard-long stripe of clear leader that has been painted and photocopied on. At the June 1 opening reception, viewers will sit facing the digital camera, holding its shutter button. goetz will move the film through the projector, which casts its image on the viewer’s face. Then the viewer may capture individual video frames of his or her face at will. Within a few minutes, those frames will be knitted together into video footage projecting out the Carrack’s windows, onto the storefront across Parrish Street.

detail of handmade film from the audience’s present (2012), projection installation, sarah goetz
  • Photo by Chris Vitiello
  • detail of handmade film from "the audience’s present" (2012), projection installation, sarah goetz
This performance/film piece’s title refers to both of goetz’s concerns in the piece: time and presence. The real-time capturing of oneself has the potential to be more thrilling and personal than the more passive connections set up in the paintings and sculptural installation. Immediacy is intensity. And by incorporating an augmented image of the viewer into the work, goetz is commemorating the close interaction between herself, the viewer, and the artifact. There’s no spiritual overtone to the interaction, more of a mere acknowledgement of its circularity. A third reading of the title is this experience as a gift.

Although it wasn’t yet installed when I previewed the show, there will also be a projection of the forgotten face of my lover | the silence after a cold good-bye, an experimental film of digital stills, video and hand-painted film. Goetz describes it as “a re-creation of the experience of a distanced relationship.”

Just Between Us shows an artist wanting badly to reach out to viewers, but without ego, meditating upon interaction as a form rather than an expression of self. And for goetz that form is circular, like orbits slowly eroding the relative gravities of objects and people into a central one-ness.

Just Between Us closes on June 7 with a reception and live music.


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