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Paula Crown's Multi-Sensory "Bearings Down" Exhibition

Artwork damaged during transport leads to an immersive installation in Dallas

by David Graver
on 14 April 2016

As with all globally acclaimed art fairs, some of the best work can be spied at tangential showcases. This holds true for Chicago-based multimedia artist Paula Crown's "Bearings Down" exhibition. For anyone venturing to the Dallas Art Fair this weekend, a stop at The Goss-Michael Foundation is well worth the time. Crown has assembled an immersive installation that taps into multiple senses via mixed media. In essence, Crown sought to distill memories and moments, and turn the idea of "landscape" into sculpture, sound, video work—even a hologram.

A main component of the ideas behind "Bearings Down" is the notion of virtual vs works by hand. This is a direct result of Crown's exploratory artistic process. "For me, in this virtual world, even though I like technology, I feel like all art starts with a mark. It begins with the brain and then a connection through the body. An idea is manifested in some way," Crown explains to CH. "I'm interested in the world of virtual vs the real."

It was a very real moment that would be the impetus for what is a show laden with digital innovation. Crown was traveling over South Africa's Drakensberg mountain range when, she says, "I needed to capture the moment." In doing so, Crown embraced the full reality of her experience, "The environment was effecting my hand. The aircraft was chattering. The wind was blowing. My drawing was truly reflecting what was happening at that moment—in something that could never be recreated." Crown scanned the images, and zoomed deeper. "What I found was landscapes within the lines of these landscapes. When you break it down you end up with these geometric forms," she tells us. "That got me reflecting on the self-repeating forms that make up our universe. Clouds are fractal formations, so are our lungs. I thought this was a beautiful, poetic exploration of the macro and micro." Crown (working with Factum Arte in Spain) began to print these scanned images on glass and metal, ultimately creating an infinity mirror-like box of work. During shipping, the work was shattered slightly and another idea was born.

"One of the best things about being an artist, is that just about everything has possibility," Crown says. The work wouldn't be repaired, but modified. She determined that ball bearings would make for an ideal device for destruction, and further damaged her piece. She broke through rigid surfaces and in turn created something organic. "Even though there was a violent set of moments, there were these mark-making opportunities," she says. Patterns formed of nature and force and gravity but also drawn from her actions. Then Crown began to make pieces to accompany it.

"3D programming enables me to express what’s in my head. I see things dimensionally," she furthers. This belief led to the multi-media components of her exhibition. "I tried to begin with the actual footage of the breaking, merging it with digital animation. Digital tools are another step along the way to what I am creating as an artist. It's an existential loop of what art can be and what materials it will manifest in. It was important to me to show people how there were these multiple layers of marks happening."

In addition to the video, there are soundscapes ranging from reverberation to the shattering of glass—which comes across much like a rainstorm. Crown, through all the media at play, aims to heighten the senses. She says, "The work should challenge the notion of getting our bearings. Where are we? Is it the macro or the micro? This is a very complex human question."

"Bearings Down" runs now till the end of May at The Goss-Michael Foundation, 1405 Turtle Creek Blvd, Dallas, TX.

Images courtesy of The Goss-Michael Foundation

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