Step into the Currier Museum of Art’s Putnam Gallery between Saturday, June 9, and the end of September, and you’ll be immersed in a larger-than-life contemporary landscape of blues and greens. Waves, clouds, billows of smoke — or are they mountain ranges? — envelop you once you walk inside.
Cristi Rinklin, associate professor of visual arts at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., has created a site-specific installation titled “Diluvial,” her first for the Currier, for its gallery, which was added to the museum’s space during its 2008 expansion. The exhibit is part of the Currier’s Contemporary Connections series.
A painter her entire life, Rinklin has conceived an exhibit that floods the gallery and leaves it spacious, almost empty, at the same time. The exhibit is a combination of hand-painted, digitally scanned, blown-up paintings that play upon the gallery’s high windows, painted and scanned wallpaper on the two walls closest to the windows, and two hand-painted murals on the opposite side of the airy space. The pieces somehow work together to create simultaneous feelings of tranquility and foreboding.
Boston-based Rinklin is an artist of the 21st century. She uses pencils and paintbrushes and Photoshop to make her works come to life and interact with physical space. Represented by Steven Zevitas Gallery in Boston, Rinklin says the Currier’s collection of 19th-century New England landscape paintings inspired the installation, the name of which is a reference to the Great Biblical Flood, yet another positioning of opposites — in this case, the juxtaposition of the contemporary and the historic.
“A lot of the work came from my vocabulary of imagery in dialogue with the Currier’s collection and the region,” said Rinklin. “I wanted [the work] to relate to the landscape” of New Hampshire and to “incorporate some of the elements [of the 19th-century paintings] into my sketches.”
Rinklin’s process for creating the window panels began with hand-painting small pieces, which she then scanned onto her computer. She used Photoshop to create layers and slightly play with the images and then sent the image files to a printing company to be blown up to a height of 10 feet as lambda prints.
Rinklin first created images using this detailed process for a 2006 installation for the Remis Sculpture Court at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Her new window panels, like those created for the sculpture court, are semi-translucent, resembling stained glass.
“There is an obvious association with stained glass, but the [images] are a synthetic technology while the glass is organic material,” Rinklin said. “There is also a relation to screen and projection ... [which] is our portal in a lot of ways, [or how] we engage with the world, our imagination and a way we escape. [Screens] are ubiquitous” in our lives. Rinklin describes the pieces as representing the uncertain and volatile space between destruction and renewal, an ever-present cycle.
The two other components of the exhibit, the wallpaper and murals, were hand-designed, scanned, printed and hung, and sketched and hand-painted, respectively. New Hampshire Institute of Art rising seniors Leah Hoyt and Abbie Ireland helped Rinklin paint the murals.
Nina Bozicnik, curator for the installation, invited Rinklin to submit a proposal for the gallery space roughly two years ago. She had seen Rinklin’s exhibit at Tufts and thought she would be a “wonderful artist to explore for this space.” The exhibit marks the first site-specific installation for the gallery, Bozicnik said.
“It brings [visitors] the opportunity to explore artwork that’s really physical [where you] get to be immersed in an artist’s environment,” Bozicnik said. “It’s different than just an optical experience. … It shows how [a] contemporary artist reinterprets art traditions that have been around for a long time, an immersion with landscape and how we re-envision it. … It transports you into a different place.”
The original sketches Rinklin created will be on display in the museum’s Discovery Gallery. Additionally, Rinklin and Bozicnik will present an open conversation about the installation, which is being funded by Bank of New Hampshire, the Gloria Wilcher Exhibition Fund and a grant from the College of the Holy Cross, on Thursday, Aug. 2. Composer-musician Shirish Korde will also perform a composition of music he created in direct response to the installation.