The exhibition Trespasser: Found Objects and Stolen Images, on view at the Harrison Center, takes its title from Kipp Normand’s mixed object assemblage of the same name. Normand’s “Trespasser” is more than a found object construction, though; it’s a fictionalized narrative sprung from a suitcase of memories. In the artwork, a die-cut photograph of a boy on a horse passes through a city composed of antique bottles with stoppers that mimic minarets. The young “trespasser” traverses an imagined city, one that suggests movement rather than the static nature of things contained behind glass.
Normand, who says he used to make cities out of bottles as a child, now understands this as an attempt at understanding place. The boy, though, didn’t live long enough to ponder such questions; he died in World War II. As Normand tells the story, the boy’s family put all memorabilia from their son’s short life into a suitcase, which was left behind in an attic. Somehow, the suitcase found its way to Normand and the boy now lives in an eternal, imagined city; one imagines this as a sort of heaven.
Normand, who collects what has been discarded to breathe new life into it as a sacred (or at least revered) object, says he is only interested in the damaged. In addition to collecting stuff from trash cans, abandoned buildings and junk stores, Normand purchases plaster religious figures — but only the damaged ones. Thus they, too, become metaphors for us; each construction they inhabit becomes its own city, but one that is psychologically suggestive. “If I were a plastic figure I’d really be smashed up,” Normand says.
Walking around the gallery is like visiting the island of lost toys. Indeed, what has been left behind is often what contains the most meaning. Normand recognizes this, and his boxes each tell a story of abandonment and by their very nature suggest redemption.
Co-exhibitor Ginny Taylor Rosner, whose photographs are on view alongside Normand’s richly varied reliquary boxes, also speaks to what’s been abandoned. Rosner’s photographs and intaglio prints “illuminate” through her careful eye those places that no longer function as inhabited spaces. Rosner refers to these spaces as poetic, and this isn’t a stretch; ironically, Normand’s boxes speak to narrative while Rosner’s “real” places are less lifelike as illuminated images. They at once become something else; a snippet of poetry, perhaps, which often works best when it’s a lovely accident borne of enigmatic image.
Rosner’s series of First Presbyterian Church (the Harrison Center prior to its renovation) are perhaps the loveliest of these other-imagined spaces. The original stained glass of the cavernous church casts an ethereal glow on falling plaster and randomly strewn detritus. In one of Rosner’s most poignant photographs, the plaster has fallen from the wall to suggest a dancer; one arm reaching skyward while a leg points, hopeful. What to make, though, of the rope hanging from the ceiling? Must death come prior to resurrection?
One can’t ignore the Christ reference throughout the room. Normand’s bound Christ figure in “Unbound” is not an overtly religious statement, and yet, he says, Christ is considered here for both his humanness and his sacredness. Rosner’s images depict spaces that have now been reclaimed, and thus resurrected, if only through her camera lens.
Trespasser: Found Objects and Stolen Images is on view through Oct. 3 at Harrison Center for the Arts, 1505 N. Delaware St., 396-3886. Visit www.harrisoncenter.org or call for hours and details.