Come on over to Susan Wick's place. The Crayola-hued walls are her palette, and the rest of the stuff -- Wick's stuff, to be precise -- is subject to her whimsy, and it all rambles through the upstairs gallery at the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver. Everyday Ideas Entertain Me: A Domestic Installation, a work in slow, serendipitous progress, officially opens Friday night, but it's actually something that's been blossoming in Wick's consciousness for, oh, most of her life. You really have to be there.
Today, a woozy, pale-green Dr. Seuss lamp pokes up lazily against a pink wall, shedding cozy light over mismatched chairs. You want to sit down with a cup of tea and a book. You want to recline and talk for hours, forget the world bustling on out there. Somewhere in back, a stack of old suitcases wobbles up a closet-like space. A narrow bed presents itself to the weary. Warm yellow sidles up to deep pink.
"It's ambiguous -- as you walk through, you have to think about what's art and what's furniture," says MoCAD director Mark Masuoka, who conceived the idea for the show after visiting Z-Wick Place, Wick's actual studio/living quarters, and, quite simply, being blown away by what he saw. And though it's both art and furniture, the real force of the installation is where it ultimately takes you -- deep into Susan Wick's mind, where the artistic process turns over and over, a perpetual-motion machine powered by everyday encounters. Wick says process -- the raising of questions rather than the presentation of answers -- is what keeps her on her toes: "I putter. I move around as much as I can. I share everyday ideas, build on everyday idea choices. You can't get away from your own aesthetic." Art. Furniture. Wick quotes Louise Nevelson: "'Housekeeping is an opportunity for sculpture.'"
Masuoka calls Wick's show a vanguard in installation art. Installations, he says, are old hat by now -- "You can guess what it's going to be before you see it." A pile of sand in the middle of a room. An assemblage of items on the wall. Enough with that, says Masuoka, a take-charge kind of museum director, whose background as an artist immediately sets him apart from the usual academic curatorial type. Selecting work and putting it in a room doesn't suit him. He wants to change the way people perceive not only contemporary art, but museums of contemporary art as well, and Wick's place of one's own is a start. "Contemporary art is art of less than ten minutes," he says. "This is about as contemporary as you can get."
In collaboration with Wick, Masuoka has endeavored to take the boundary-defying concept of Z-Wick Place, which blends living, work and gallery spaces, and plunk it down into MoCAD -- to show Wick's art within the environment in which it was created. "It's not just work, shown out of context," Masuoka notes. "It's like being able to walk into someone's home and having permission to poke around, to look in the medicine cabinet." Only visitors to this house will come away with a rare look into the direct, personal effects of environment on creativity -- the spark that spawns art in the first place. "Isn't this what museums should be doing?" Masuoka asks.
In the meantime, Wick gets to live in the museum, more or less, for three months. She can change her mind, put that chair there, place a mosaic tile there. She can take this back home, bring this over. What you see one day, you might not see the next. She can even work here if she wants, actually transforming her installation into a studio for producing more artwork. And she's doing it as we speak, creating in her mind a flurry of "magic surprises" for potential viewers.
What's she got in mind for tomorrow or the next day? "I don't know," says Wick. "You'll have to come back."
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