Artist uses fibers to explore nature of time

How much hot glue does it take to make a masterpiece? About 83 pounds, to start with. At least, that is what artist Gerri Sayler  used to make her exhibit “Infinitesimal: A Site-Responsive Installation.”

Walking into the Bryan Oliver Art Gallery between Feb. 21 and April 5, one will encounter 920 dangling strands of hot glue. Blue, moving lights make patterns on the ceiling above, from which the ears can pick up the subtle music of water trickling in a cave. The twisty patterns of the glue strands give it the appearance of fiber, which is the primary medium Sayler uses to portray cycles of nature and the nature of time.

“Texture is the sister of time,” Sayler said. “It is evidence of something that has happened.”

In the case of “Infinitesimal,” the piece is representative of ice drizzling at the base of a glacier. Sayler was inspired to create the display after learning about how the landscape of the Northwest was formed during the most recent Ice Age, she said. The persistent trickling of glacial meltwaters achieved cracks in the glacier which resulted in a cataclysmic flooding of the region. For Sayler, “infinitesimal” means “something so tiny that could have created a disaster over and over again.”

Sayler created the technique for “Infinitesimal” when she discovered that molten glue forms twists and curves when put in cool water.

“I discovered this as an accident,” Sayler said. “I like to use fibers as a sculptural medium.”

The artist has worked with many kinds of fibers within her art, including unraveled twine, bamboo and black aluminum screening.

“I’ve come to think of fibers as a line of time,” Sayler said. “Time doesn’t happen in a straight line, it happens on the curves.”

Indeed, the gentle but purposeful curves of the glue in the display add to the feeling of time. The glue is designed to look like glass, almost translucent, Sayler said.

The opening reception for the exhibit was held in the Lied Center for the Arts on Feb. 21, followed by a lecture.

Lecturer of art Stephen Rue said “Infinitesimal” will be available for viewing in the Bryan Oliver Art Gallery during the shifting of the seasons from winter into spring.

“As the landscape changes, we change as we experience it,” Rue said.

Sophomore Bethany Fleming, who attended the reception and lecture, said she was first attracted to the exhibit while it was being put up.

“When you think of art, you think of paintings, but this was very different,” Fleming said. “It made me feel more scientifically aware, in an artistic way.”

Viewers of all ages came to experience the piece for themselves. However, Sayler said that the art is best experienced in natural lighting — during daytime hours — and alone. It is a rare opportunity for hushed tranquility.

“When I make pieces of art, I like to create a visceral environment so people come in, especially when alone,” she said. “It causes you to pause and contemplate.”

Sayler, who has been a television and print reporter among other careers, said that she reinvented herself on-the-fly a few years back.

“Follow what you pay attention to,” Sayler said. “It’s about the themes that you carry inside you that want to be heard.”

As well as causing her to think about metaphysical time, her art is also about explaining the sacred, she said.

“Why would I use such commonplace things to explain the sacred?” Sayler asked. “Any fiber I use becomes soaked in the sacred.”

Sayler, a native of Minnesota, lives in Moscow, Idaho with her husband where she draws inspiration from the Palouse landscape. Other exhibits of hers include works done for the Boise Art Museum and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Story by Heather Kennison Staff Writer

Contact Heather Kennison at hkennison12@my.whitworth.edu.

Photos by David Rurik

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