Left to right: Austin Dearth, Rocket Colors Map, 2022 (Courtesy of the artist and Troost Gardens and Imagine That!); Leon Jones, Nicodemus Slept Here, 2017 (Courtesy of the artist and Kiosk Gallery); Elaine Buss, Perceptual Boundaries, 2019 (Courtesy of the artist and Beco Gallery)
“Site Three,” the latest installation of the collaborative Site series, is concerned with how scarcity and local identity shape how we experience a moment and in turn, how we create. The Site Series project combines work from six independent galleries across Kansas City into shared exhibits. The galleries are Beco, The Ekru Project, Kiosk, plug, Sapien and Troost Gardens.
“Site One” took place at The Slabs in Gillham Park and “Site Two” at the Loose Park Pond. This third event, at the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, was organized by curator Kimi Kitada, and features works by 14 artists from Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, and Washington. On August 7, ceramicist and multimedia artist Cydney Ross led an artist hike for Site Three at Bethany Falls Trailhead where she taught participants about native plants with breaks for sketching and writing.
Upon entering the Artspace, my eyes were drawn to three quilts by veteran Kansas City artist NedRa Bonds, busy and colorful at first glance and rich with story on further inspection. “Preachers, Pimps, Politicians, and Pushers”neatly splits American culture into its basic contradictions while “Here Comes the Judge”acts as a blistering political portrait of Justice Clarence Thomas. Textile artist Lizzie Green also contributed a quilt, a childhood scenescape of checkerboards, windows, and doorways in bold primary colors titled “Hopscotch.”
“Perceptual Boundaries”by Kansas City ceramic artist Elaine Buss is made up of scattered ceramic tubes with glittering hidden depths. If you visit, you will be given a flashlight to look inside Buss’s formations and glimpse iridescent minerals, metallic oxides, and glass. You can see deep inside if you use the light and look closely, suggesting that boundaries are only the limits of human perception, and they can be pushed and shifted by curiosity.
Florida-based, KU alum Myles Dunagan’s contributions work with the sensory experience of a forest and our need to preserve that experience even as nature changes in human hands. His “Shelter Series”features a tent-shaped canvas printed with leafy colors and textures but also with geometric patterns. The effect depends on how far away you stand. One side looks like a waterfall from five feet away, but more like a collage of light and moss and rectangular shapes from up close. The piece is held down by cable ties and cement blocks, trying to capture and make singular what is constantly changing.
Local artist and “food fermentation experimentalist” Sean Nash layers fabric and resin vegetables with acrylic paint in a series dedicated to the emotional and practical processes of growing food crops. Painter, illustrator, and clothing designer Celina Curry’s transparent insect decals decorate the windows and morph into the gallery space, mirroring the unseen importance of “Pollinator Pals” in the global ecosystem.
In “Nicodemus Slept Here,” Leon Jones recreates a church basement room in Florence, Italy, that once housed a legendary figure in Black history. Kevin Demery, an interdisciplinary artist from the San Francisco Bay area, contributed three sculptures, facial silhouettes hung from the ceiling with chains. Each is adorned with a combination of wind chimes, tambourines, and painted wood shapes that knock against each other in the path of an electric fan and create a peaceful ambiance.
Kansas City artist Kira Sullivan’s “Lady Nesting, After the Flood”resembles a Nick Cave Soundsuit tinged with femininity and disaster. The central figure is knotted up in gauzy scarves and pink fabrics, presiding over a sea of plastic water bottles. Warped wooden floorboards seem to inch along the floor like worms and an open notebook explains that this is a monument “in memory of the water.”
Local artist Austin Dearth offers a creative take on cartography in his series of freeform grids. “Rocket Colors Map” stands out, somewhere between a brightly colored brain and an explosion in a hall of mirrors. “What Reflects: Beauty Supply” by KCAI alum Jada Patterson highlights how consumerist beauty culture has changed our self-image. “Hearth” by sculptor Carlie Trosclair, a nearly collapsed wire and latex chimney, warns us that even the most foundational of structures are precarious.
Seattle-based multimedia artist Sadaf Sadri contributed two pieces, very different in composition but equally powerful in their commentary on the surveillance state. “Unconsented Visibility” is a loop of raw footage shot at eye level in a shopping mall. Some passersby peer into the camera, stopping and wondering why they are being recorded, while others walk by without registering it at all. “First Surveillance” intersperses natural disaster reporting, warzone footage, Jimmy Carter saying “I could have wiped Iran off the map,” beach cleanups, and a burning American flag among many other images and recordings.
On July 24, an inaugural event was held at Site Three. Creators “who find themselves at a critical junction as resources and infrastructures become less available” were invited to engage in debates about where this scarcity may lead. The pieces of “Site Three” have a couple of thoughts: many of them were constructed out of found and recycled materials and more still celebrate their own instability.
“Site Three” continues at the H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute, 16 W. 43rd St., through Sept. 10. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday- Saturday. For more information, 816.561.5563 or kcai.edu/artspace