A new exhibit with connections to our local history explores both Bridgeport’s and our larger nation’s past, and will run from February 6 through March 21, 2020. The show is comprised of sculptures rendered in various materials, including large-scale casts in broken glass from the porch of the home of Mary Freeman (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and works cast in coal and marble dust that invoke P.T. Barnum’s specter as well as his adverse impact.
Focusing on the relationship between what was before and what is to come, Owens’ work weaves together, both literally and figuratively, the surface and substrata of the ground to reveal its structure, material, and history. The porch sculptures, part of an ongoing project entitled Life on the Other Side of a Cracked Glass Ceiling, are a platform for visitors to climb and stand on while reimagining the site and the accounts it holds. This portion of the exhibit allows us to reimagine the radical past of the Freeman sisters and offers the potential for recreation.
Industrialization and capitalistic forces quickly swept away most of a bourgeoning community and have caused generations of both ecological and human collateral in the area. In the back gallery, a stovepipe hat becomes a smokestack, “shellscapes” cast from exoskeletons found along Long Beach and the Great Meadows Marsh, and an amphibious figure focus on the underlying causes for the decimation of Little Liberia.
The word Hypogean comes from the Greek words hypo (under) and Gaia (earth) together meaning underground. From the sea bed to coal-burning to stepping above and re-experiencing our community, the show is both a tip, as in a bit of information, and a tip, as in toppling, of our expectations of what is above and what is below.
“Imprints of porch floors, grasses, shells and leaves embedded within richly-colored cast glass document the cultural geography of Bridgeport’s South End,” said Robbin Zella, Director of Housatonic Museum of Art, “enticing us to learn about the people and politics of everyday life in Little Liberia.”
About the Artist
Rachel Owens received her MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999 and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Through a feminist lens her work focuses on issues of hierarchical social conditions, consumption of the environment and the points where these things intersect. Taking various forms, she uses materials that once existed with a specific function, reassigning them within a different context and creates new meaning. She is an Assistant Professor of Art and Design at SUNY Purchase College and Chair of the Sculpture Department.
Owens’ work has been included in exhibitions both in the US and internationally including The X Krasnoyarsk Biennial, RU; Franco Soffiantino Contemporary, IT; Austrian Cultural Forum, NY; The Frist Museum of Art, TN; Socrates Sculpture Park,LIC; New Museum Window, NY and ZieherSmith Gallery in NY, among others. She has been reviewed in the New York Times, New Yorker, Sculpture Magazine and Hyperallergic and has received grants from the Pollock-Krasner, Joan Mitchell, and Harpo Foundations.