Craig Walsh’s MONUMENTS

Submitted by Laura Colby

1+

Client: Strathmore

Location: Bethesda, MD, United States

Completion date: 2020

Artwork budget: $35,000

Project Team

Artist

Craig Walsh

Craig Walsh

Curator/ Programmer/Artistic Director

Joi Brown

Strathmore

portrait subject

Be Steadwell

portrait subject

Daryl Davis

portrait subject

Terron Cooper Sorrells

portrait subject

Marjan Naderi

portrait subject

C. Brian Williams

portrait subject

Yoko K. Sen

Overview

MONUMENTS is an outdoor public art project celebrating unsung heroes with large-scale portraits that are projected onto live trees to create a haunting synergy between the human form, nature, and the act of viewing. These stunning night-time activations challenge the selective history of representation through traditional public monuments through enormous night-time video projections that transform trees into sculptural monuments. Clients select the portrait subjects to be honored. Installations typically include three video portraits installed for four weeks of nighttime viewing, although the scale and duration can vary based on client needs.
Australian-based artist Craig Walsh create the site-specific MONUMENTS installations in collaboration with clients in a week-long, on-site residency, following an initial review of sites from photographs and video provided by the client. COVID travel restrictions have required even greater innovation and collaboration, with Walsh working entirely remotely.
Recent MONUMENTS in North America include Strathmore in Bethesda, MD; Arizona Arts Live in Tucson, AZ; and Discovery Green in Houston, TX. Future installations include Charlotte, NC; Oswego, NY; Blacksburg, VA. Link to Nov, 2020 WA Post review: https://tinyurl.com/5f23

Goals

MONUMENTS installations are an integration of two-dimensional video projections onto three-dimensional trees. The unique combination creates a haunting visual that resonates differently with each viewer. Artist Craig Walsh records the video footage of each subject in the same way: each subject is given the same instructions, their faces framed in the same way. Their heads are to be still, while their mouths, lips, cheeks, and eyes move with expression – at Walsh’s instructions. These evocative, silent videos are what are projected in large-scale onto living trees in full leaf.
Trees are chosen carefully for each projection to ensure successful integration of these video projections, as the specific attributes of each tree contribute to the unique experience of viewing a MONUMENTS installation. The trees’ limbs and leaves provide a third dimension to the otherwise two-dimensional form of video. As darkness falls, the natural movement of the tree creates an unforgettable, unexpected experience for the viewer, capturing their attention and transporting them to a dream-like place.
The scale and outdoor location of the exhibition have provided an opportunity for people to safely gather and engage with the humanity of these temporal monuments.

Process

Client Joi Brown, Strathmore, Bethesda, MD chose to celebrate Metro Area-based artists. The subjects were chosen through a panel process comprised of Strathmore staff and board, and guest panelists from the broader artistic community.
Strathmore’s “Monuments: Creative Forces” honored “six artists who embody the force of nature, and whose past, current, or ongoing work is changing the shape of our community in fundamental and essential ways.” – Joi Brown
The six artists were: Be Steadwell, musician, filmmaker & storyteller; Daryl Davis, pianist & race reconciliatory; Terron Cooper Sorrells, painter & printmaker; Marjan Naderi, poet; C. Brian Williams, Executive Director, Step Afrika!; and Yoko K. Sen, ambient electronic musician. You can read more at this link: https://tinyurl.com/fddr3exd
Strathmore’s “Monuments” was presented October 1 - October 31, 2020– in the middle of the pandemic shutdowns. With the installation being outside, Strathmore was able to welcome socially distanced, masked viewers to stroll their beautiful grounds, taking in the portraits using timed entries. Viewers continue to feedback how meaningful it was for them to be outside, to gather (safely) with others to experience the stunning images.

Additional Information

At a time when we are questioning how history is represented though our nation’s many permanent statues, MONUMENTS provides a beautiful opportunity to celebrate and honor those unsung, living heroes in your community today. Clients report back on the strength of the community goodwill that their MONUMENTS installation evoked – and the ongoing positive repercussions that the installation delivered. Many clients continue to receive positive feedback for months following their MONUMENTS installations, with viewers commenting on the inspiration it provided. Often viewers become “accidental audience” just because they happened to walk by on the right night at the right time. These viewers are especially surprised to be greeted by these larger-than-life faces.