Art That Breathes


Art comes to life Wednesday, November 18, when artist C. Ryder Cooley performs her mixed-media work Animalia at 7:30 p.m. in the MCLA Church Street Center. Animalia is part of the MCLA Presents! series.

The work, which is featured in MCLA Gallery 51's Nest exhibition, consists of more than 100 mixed-media drawings mounted on found wood. In her performance, Cooley will tell their story lyrically, through song, movement and projected imagery.

"Through performance, I bring the drawings to life. My primary goal as an artist is to make living art, art that breathes," Cooley says. "In the performances, you will find many of the same themes that exist in the drawings: hybrid beings, mystical deer, androgynous bees, decrepit architecture and cryptic messages.  Likewise, in the installation soundtrack, you will hear music and sounds that are echoed in the performances."

The audience will see and hear an extraordinary mixture of images and sounds.

"Taxidermy deer will come to life within a landscape of archival film, video, and sound. You will see enormous projections of bees and Coney Island Ferris wheels, animated with theatrical stage movement. Live music on accordion, singing saw and strings will be woven together to create a multi-sensory experience," she explains.

Cooley says she's been creating performances, visual art, and songs for as long as she can remember.

"My work is cumulative and layered. One project builds upon the next. Drawings are collaged onto wood. Movement is woven into video and then sculpted with sound," she explains. "The stories that emerge combine fiction with reality to create intimate mythologies. Sometimes I think of my work as a way of processing life, trying to make sense of the world. At other times it is an escape, a survival mechanism, a flight of fancy."

Throughout the performance, the audience may reflect upon some underlying themes.

"These subtle, poignant themes include ecological distress, struggles and misconceptions surrounding honeybees, plights of deer, crows and other commonly disdained creatures, gender reconfigurations, and last but not least, there is an anti-war message," she says.

This semester, Cooley also worked with MCLA Professor Melanie Mowinski's art students. Together, they designed an installation for the Gallery 51 windows, based on a future project they've been discussing, Birdcage Refuge.

"The whole process has been a collaborative nest-vision where people are working together to make magical things happen. Working with Melanie and her class has been great," Cooley says.

Following Wednesday night's Animalia performance, Cooley invites the audience to Gallery 51 for a reception, which is free and open to the public. There, she hopes they will look for their own clues connecting the performance and the installation.

Nest runs through Sunday, November 22.  MCLA Gallery 51, at 51 Main Street in North Adams, is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call (413) 664-8718, or go to Gallery51 .

For tickets to Animalia, call (413) 662-5204. MCLA Presents! is a project of MCLA's Berkshire Cultural Resource Center.  For more information, call (413) 664-8718, or go to presents .