Entry begun on Friday, May 29, 1:35 pm
The Dickinson exhibition ended on Saturday, May 8, one week before the Moby exhibition ended on Saturday, May 15, so Emma Rose and I took them down on two successive Mondays, May 11 and May 18. It is so much easier to take an exhibition down than to install it. We were fortunate in that there had been no damage to any of the works in either show. So all we had to do was to take each work down carefully and return it to the owner or site we had borrowed it from.
I felt a twinge of sorrow taking down our four beautiful Dickinson fabric pieces from the Eva G. Farris Reading Room, but it was great to see Lindsay Alley’s white poem dress and Stacey Barnes’ dramatic garden quilt back in their permanent home in the Honors House. Among the Portrait pieces, I will miss seeing Nicci Mechler’s larger-than-life image of Dickinson in my office (where I had been keeping it until the exhibition went up), but now I will have my newly framed copy of Sarah Dewald’s Modern Daguerreotype as a treasured replacement. From our Landscape section, Zack Ghaderi’s abstract charcoal drawing will be returning to Emma Rose’s collection, and Jovana Vidojevic’s purple lilac painting is following Jovana back to Serbia in the hands of a friend who has agreed to be its courier. Among the works in our Human Figure section, John Campbell has reclaimed his large Bandaged Soul drawing, and his ten-panel Emily Dickinson screen will soon be going on display at the Cincinnati Public Library. Of the works in the cases on the Third Floor of the library, Carola Bell’s artist book Only Safe in Ashes will now be returning to the person from whom she had borrowed it before loaning it to me for safekeeping in advance of the show.
The Dickinson show had only taken about an hour deinstall, but the Moby take-down was a little more complicated. We chose Monday as the primary day because we could both be there as long as we needed, beginning with the opening of the building at 9 am, and we did need most of the day to get it done. One huge help was that Kathleen Piercefield arrived very early in the day to disassemble her larger-than-life Queequeg and to gather all of the other works she had loaned to show (which included Holly Doyle McAtee’s Queequeg as well as eight other Piercefields beyond the four I had loaned to the show from my office). Gary Pilkington was exceedingly helpful, as always. This time he was the one who crawled over the rock garden railing. Gary freed Queequeg from the light standard that had supported him so nicely. This rendered Queequeg a loose fish once more, but only briefly, because Kathleen had to break him into his eight component parts so he would fit in the back of her car.
Since we were starting by removing Queequeg and its four companions from the base of the rock garden, my next challenge was to free Danielle Kleymeyer’s Shear from its attachment to a bracket over the stairwell. This painted metallic relief by a Political Science major now practicing law in Louisville had been one of the stars of the show, twisting slowly in the air currents and giving viewrers plenty of opportunity to see both the pristine white Moby side and the darker, fractured Ahab side. I am very happy that Shear, too, will be returning to its permanent home in the Honors House, but I wish we had a place there, such as we did here, in which both sides could be easily visible. This work is not very heavy, so it did not feel like having a marlin on the line once I got hold of it, but it was very sharp and quite delicate, so I did have to be quite careful when freeing it from our fishline and wrestling it in over the rail.
Shear would be going out to NKU with the other larger sculptural pieces, so for this day I had again borrowed Joan’s Chevy Equinox. As before, Shear would go down as the lowest layer of art behind the driver’s seat, followed by Abby’s two body casts and whatever else could be fit in the vehicle for this trip. We had had to remove Abby’s Life-Buoy from its position suspended over the east edge of the rock garden in order for Gary to lower Kathleen’s Queequeg down to the floor below, so I had temporarily hung the Life-Buoy on the ledge near Abby’s Queequeg in her Coffin I. In doing so, I realized that these two shapes had only had a chance to hang together once before, at Gallerie Zaum in 2009. QQ I was now on her way back to my office at NKU, with her younger sister QQ II going back to her perch over the stairwell at the Honors House. Life-Buoy would be returning to her creator/mother’s home in the Delhi area of west Cincinnati, where she hangs in a hallway and is apparently unfazed by accidental bumps from people in a hurry. Abby reports that Kalli still seems to feel a particular attachment to this shell and container of her early life.
When I worked with longshoremen in Seattle during the summer of 1967 after completing my M. A. in English in New York, I was not as strong as most of my companions as we loaded heavy equipment into an LST for a voyage to Alaska. I did, however, learn one principle from my fellow workers that has served me very well ever since: you can carry a lot more than you think, without hurting your back, if you have the same amount of weight in both hands. One of the first healthy applications I made of that rule was to begin carrying multiple tote bags to and from school instead of the beautiful leather brief case my Dad have given me as a graduation present when I got my Ph. D. That leather brief case was pretty heavy in itself, but when I was teaching four courses a semester in the 1970s and sometimes carrying a heavy anthology for each of the four, my back got sore in a hurry, and not just from being hunched over grading papers. It was considered rather unmanly to ditch the professorial briefcase for a handful of tote bags, then considered womanly, but they were almost weightless in themselves and made it very easy to evenly distribute the load. When we freed Abby’s first body cast from the fishline, there was really nowhere to place it, so I asked Emma Rose if she could hold it in the air until I freed the second–after which it was easier to walk up the stairs and out to the Equinox with one in either hand than it would have been to take them down and then out of the building in any other way.
Once I had Danielle’s Shear sculpture and Abby’s two body casts flat in the back of the Equinox, I had room for Nancy Vagedes’s ceramic white whale to ride in the passenger seat next to me. Remembering that Emma Rose had put Landon Jones’s wax sculpture of Ahab’s head in a seat belt when driving him around, I decided to the same with Nancy’s ceramic whale, for I certainly would not want it to go “forehead to forehead” with my glove compartment if I had to make a quick stop. Nor would I have wanted to knock Captain Ahab and his whaleboat off of Nancy’s beautiful ceramic sea (especially after having now met Nancy’s son at the reception, he presumably having been in 1997 the ten-year old son who had helped her fashion Ahab’s little harpoon). The drive up to the school with this precious cargo was uneventful. Dave Kime at the Honors House helped me get Shear and Queequeeg in her Coffin II back in their customary spots. I carried Queequeg in her Coffin I and Nancy’s ceramic depiction of Captain Ahab’s Worst Nightmare from the Equinox up to my office one at a time, for even a longshoreman might have had trouble balancing these two works in separate hands.
Back at the library, Emma Rose was very efficient at removing velcroed paintings from the wall on the Children’s level and harvesting other 2-D works from our small cabinet-top easels and from the metallic slats on the walls, pillars, and book stacks. Gary had brought several long tables into the meeting room on which we could set the works as we took them down. It was kind of fun to fish the seven quilts up from over the balcony. The only significant delay we had in taking down the show was caused by the plastic loops we had used to lash some of the larger artworks to the tripods on which they were displayed. These loops proved too tough to cut through with scissors, a situation Gary remedied by finding us some wire cutters. Emma Rose had the honor of removing Caitlin’s Captain Ahab creations from the tripods near the north window on the Third Floor, since she had had the original inspiration to display them there.
We left the smaller works in the display case for last, and the last of those to be removed were the tea cups in Danielle’s tea set. Sitting alone in the otherwise empty case, they reminded me of A Closer Reading, the found poem that artist Tony de los Reyes had composed from words he extracted from “Loomings,” the opening chapter of Moby-Dick. Except that he had not actually extracted them. He had instead left each chosen word where it was on the page of the novel on which he had found it, removing instead all other words that had surrounded it, resulting in a minimalist presentation similar to that of Danielle’s tea cups bereft of their neighbors in the display case. Danielle’s ceramic cups are pretty durable, but I wrapped each one separately in a sheet of newspaper before gently putting it in a box for the trip back home to my Bellevue dining room, where they remain almost as close to Nancy Vagedes’ 2001 Moby-Dick Anniversary Dish as they were in the exhibition..
Once we had all of the works off of the walls, tripods, balcony rails, and stack fronts, as well as out of the rock garden and display case—and in once case out of a closet—there wasn’t much to do but take all of the works now on the tables of the meeting room out to my office at the University or to my home in Bellevue. Joan’s Equinox was well suited to this task, and the trunk of Emma Rose’s car was full, so I happily gave her the afternoon off while I transported works to one destination or another, in many cases hanging them, or placing them, where they had been hung or placed before. At home, Joan is known as the thoroughbred and I am the Clydesdale. This was my Clydesdale afternoon.
Some of the works that individual artists had loaned to the show I brought home to deliver to them later. The one work that had been boxed up in a closet in the library after the Marathon weekend went onto a long suspended shelf in my basement because I had nowhere else to store it. I needed every inch of Joan’s Equinox to get Christopher Roach’s life-size drawing of himself as Ahab wearing only his peg leg home to Bellevue. The coffin-like box covered with a black plastic bag looks a little uncomfortable there in the basement, the way we 38th Voyagers first felt when we crawled into our below-deck bunks on the whaleship Charles W. Morgan last summer, but I am glad I have at least this place in which to store it as a “sleeping-partner” until the next opportunity comes to bring it up to be seen. As for Ahab’s peg leg and leg harness from the base of the rock garden, there’s a nice spot for them in the corner of my study here at home.
When I got back to the library from one of my trips home in the mid-afternoon, I took a break from the from the transport of artworks for a meeting in the office of branch manager Julia Allegrini. Like everyone else, my wife Joan, a sociologist, had been extremely impressed with how this particular library serves its wide range of patrons. She and Julia and I were meeting with Jay and Caitlin of Numediacy to discuss the possibility of some kind of video documentation of what this library does. After the meeting, Jay and Caitlin and I spoke a little about the YouTube video they were to be making of the four-day Moby Fest, and Caitlin reclaimed the three sets of Moby photos that had made such a strong impression in the Local History room. I expect we will be seeing these on display again here in the Greater Cincinnati area before too long.
The last hours, days, and week of an exhibition are always bittersweet, especially if it has gone well. You are happy you have been able to show the works you had selected and installed, but sad that they must come down. One of the pleasures Emma Rose and I had during the last week of this particular exhibition was to walk through the show in the company of two of Cincinnati’s leading art professionals. Steven Matijcio of the Contemporary Art Center came to see the show on Tuesday evening, and Marta Hewett of the Marta Hewitt Gallery came on Friday afternoon. Seeing the show with each of them eased some of the dissonance of not having been granted this courtesy by the art faculty who critiqued Emma Rose’s BFA Senior Show.