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Alumna brings site-specific art to Portland Building

September 08, 2014

  • News Image
    Abigail McNamara B.A. '12 with her installation, Ritual, 660’. Photo credit: Duplex Collective
  • News Image
    Ritual 660' in the Portland Building Installation Space. Photo credit: Duplex Collective

Over the summer, artist Abigail McNamara B.A. ’12 spent 11 hours at the entrance to downtown’s Portland Building. She carefully observed and recorded all comings and goings of the day, preparing to create an intricate installation for display in the building’s lobby.

Ritual, 660’ contains 660 floor-to-ceiling strings, each representing a minute of McNamara’s observations. Coated in varying amounts of beeswax and pigment, these strings graph fluctuations of activity in one of the city’s busiest municipal hubs. They are knotted near their centers, with entrances colored above the knots and exits indicated below.

As a Lewis & Clark studio art major, McNamara focused on drawing. But after taking two special topics courses on installation and site-specific art, she became fascinated by the potential of working in three dimensions.

“I remember being captivated by the idea that an installation creates a beautifully intimate art experience, one in which the viewer can actually become a part of the piece,” McNamara explained. “The work I make today falls primarily into that realm, but it is heavily influenced by my undergraduate drawing explorations of pattern, detail, repetition, and how humans relate to the natural world.”

McNamara offers a unique perspective on a vastly shared routine with Ritual, 660’, giving form to both the regimentation of a typical workday and the seemingly mundane activities—from lunch breaks and meetings—that characterize it. These activities take on great meaning when visualized in this piece, their shapes ebbing and flowing in natural disruption of a human-made structure.

See more images of Ritual 660’ in the Portland Building Installation Space, a program of the Regional Arts and Culture Council.

Katrina Staaf ’16 contributed to this story.

Art Department Abigail McNamara

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