Abbie R. Powers enjoys having her head in the clouds
Artist installed new silk exhibit at Gallery MAR
July 18, 2017
Abbie R. Powers paused for a moment to take in a wave of the light blue silk she suspended with some fishing line from the inside ceiling of Gallery MAR's front window.
She steppped back, tilted her head and moved forward to adjust the billow, as her assistant and fellow artist Denny Patrick Haskew scrutinized the process.
Powers and Haskew worked on the art installation for three and a half hours on Monday morning, and there were still things that needed to be done that were scheduled to be finished in the early afternoon.
"It will take a maximum of five hours to install," said Powers, a visual and performing artist from Loveland, Colorado. "I haven't titled it, yet. I probably should have."
Powers met Gallery MAR owner Maren Mullin through another artist, Joe Norman, who shows at the gallery.
"Joe has a studio in the same facility where I have a studio," Powers said.
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Mullin said she is always looking for innovative artists, and Powers' work caught her eye.
"With Abbie, we were looking for a new window moment, a new window display," Mullin said. "We had just worked with an artist [Jonnie Hartman] who does the holiday windows display at the Grand America Hotel. So, when Joe told me to reach out to
Abbie, I looked her up online and thought it would be a great opportunity to have her do an installation."
Mullin and Powers began a correspondence six months ago.
"We discussed everything from size to height, and how it would look from the outside and the inside, and how it would interact with art inside the gallery," Mullin said. "We wanted people to see that while it's a window display, it's also a work of fine art. I think she stuck the balance."
Mullin had looked at the different silk installations Powers had done, and they both decided to do a piece that referenced the clouds.
"I think it's fantastic, because there is such a great sky here in Park City, and everything in the town draws your eyes up," Powers said.
Mullin asked the artist to create designs for the space.
"Since a lot of what I do requires math, I asked her to send some measurements, so I could come up with a designer piece that would work," Powers said. "This one turned out to use just under 200 square feet of acid-dyed silk."
"This is also a triangular work and I've never done a triangle before."
Powers buys the silk in bulk and dyes it herself.
"The silk arrives and it's snow white, then I use a powder dye that mixes with vinegar and hot water," she said. "I put the whole bundle of silk in the pot and add color as I pull the silk out over several hours."
Powers took six hours to dye this bundle of silk. She then took another few hours to wash and hang it.
"The biggest challenge was to fabricate the art off site, and then making it fit once we got here," Powers said. "There are still some things that aren't resolved yet. I had to cut the silk to fit it around another artwork. So, I will be doing some fun stitch work."
When asked what she enjoys most about the installation process, Powers laughed and said, "Climbing the ladder."
Then after a pause, she said, "I think the most exciting part is when the math works and seeing the piece for the first time. I spend all of this time drawing, designing and checking the math again and again. If I get something wrong, I can't fix it because I don't live here, and I don't have the materials with me."
Powers also enjoys seeing the piece come together with the space.
"I like getting the art in the space and letting it breath, so when I tighten it up, it billows," she said. "The best part of it all is when it's just right."
The artist became familiar with art as a child growing up in Nebraska.
"My mother was a painter in the 1970s and 1980s, and she gave up that pursuit when she
had children," she said. "My father was a farmer for most of my life. He could see something in his head and build it without any plans.
"I think I had the desire, the drive and a little of the talent from both my parents."
Still, Powers didn't take any art classes until she went to college.
"I knew I wanted to take a class, and when I did, I was hooked," she said.
Powers earned a bachelor of science in studio arts form Wayne State College and went on to get a master of fine arts in sculpture from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Her works have been sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Artplace America.
They have been featured in Sunset Magazine, and have been exhibited nationally at venues such as Wayne State College, Concordia University in Nebraska, The University of Northern Colorado, Dallas Theological Seminary and The University of Colorado Denver.
"I specialize in suspended, billowing silk environments that reflect the natural movement of water across the Earth — oceans and clouds," Powers said. "I studied sculpture, which led me to installation art. That, in turn, led me to silk."
Silk is the perfect medium to capture her two inspirations — clouds and water.
"When I was growing up in Nebraska, I spent a lot of time watching the clouds," Powers said. "Then I moved to the ocean and made a connection between the two of them in color and form. Through my installation art journey, I found silk, which is the perfect material to present the forms and colors that I'm so attracted to."
The installation at Gallery MAR is available for purchase, Mullin said.
"I feel Abbie's work is more ephemeral, because she does a lot of performance art," Mullin said. "I actually see this installation as a more performance piece for us.
"We don't do a lot of live performances, where artists work in the gallery. So, to have someone come in like her is unique for us."
After spending time with her head in the silk clouds, Powers stopped and said she enjoyed installing her work at Gallery MAR.
"It's been a delight to be here and this gallery is fantastic," she said. "I'm honored to have a piece in the window here among all of these great artists."
For information about Abbie R. Powers, visit abbierpowers.com. For information about Gallery MAR, visit galleryMAR.com.