Tim Curtis    

Tim Curtis: Life Cycles: Metempsychosis/Anabiosis
Laumeier Sculpture Park


Tim Curtis' dramatic installations share themes of spirituality and the subconscious. The mood is suddenly solemn as the viewer encounters "Metempsychosis," the fascinating sanctuary Curtis has created in Laumeier's special-projects gallery.

On the way to the dark room, one passes through a shadowy "altar" chamber, made into a bower by tree-sized branches and lit only by dozens of votive candles piled on a single pedestal. Entering the inner room, one has the sense of having descended into a cave. Dark steel walls absorb all light save a single spotlight in the center of the room, which shines down on a rectangular slab of steel. Water gently drips from the ceiling, catching the light as it falls onto the steel slab, flowing through a gilded vaginal shape cut into the center of the slab, then cascading into a tin tub.

Boat like shapes, each about a foot in length, line all four black walls in a regular pattern. Made of beeswax, the grayish shapes retain the texture of the fabric in which they were molded, creating accidental snake like forms in the wax. Soft wood chips and rose petals line the gallery floor, and more tree branches reach from the ground to the ceiling, which becomes a swirling mirror of the pool.

"Metempsychosis," Curtis says, "refers to the passing of the soul at death into another body, either human or animal." And, in his statement, the artist clearly defines the metaphorical significance of each element of the piece: The wax vessels represent souls ascending, the pool represents the primordial ocean, the trees address our tenuous relationship with the natural world. Yet, even without this explanation, the installation inspires profound subjective metaphors. "Metempsychosis" is a powerful piece, and one could almost say it is the perfect embodiment of the artist's vision.

"Anabiosis," his installation in a creek on the sculpture park's grounds, brings the viewer into the fragrant outdoors, where boat like shapes lie among rose-and slate-colored rocks near reflective pools. When water rises, the tethered fiberglass forms, which are carefully treated to look like carved stone, will float and dance in the current.

The vessels, Curtis says, represent memories, which occasionally rise to the surface of the mind. As Proust made so clear, it's the scent of thing that evokes the most powerful memories. Viewed from atop Beverly Pepper's earthworks, rich with the odor of soil and new growth, the vessels become Zen like. One could sit on the hill and watch them for hours, contemplating memories and the pleasures of the moment.

The exhibition continues until May 26.


    By Alyssa Chase
The Riverfront Times April 2-8, 1997