musings & publications

Hibernation: Resting in Peace: A Sculptural Installation By Jen Raimondi
by Doug Norris. read this article...

Essay for Hibernation: Resting In Peace
Ellen Driscoll, 2006. read this article...

Essay for Hibernation: Resting In Peace
by Cynthia Farnell, May 2006. read this article...

Editor’s Note, “Art of the matter,” excerpt Janine Weisman, editor. read this article...

“Creature Discomfort” by Cynthia Farnell. read this article...

ESSAY FOR HIBERNATION: RESTING IN PEACE

Cynthia Farnell, May 2006. Executive Director, Island Arts Center

The Rhode Island landscape is densely studded with decaying architectural remnants of the past. Fragments of stone fences snake through quiet woods emerging here and there to edge waiting meadows and fields. Farmland is either in the process of reclamation by saplings and tangled underbrush, or under siege, torn by the fresh wounds of new building foundations. Tightly packed clusters of dusky-toned colonials huddle together in the towns, wrapped for warmth against the bitter winter and encroaching development in their leathery old clapboard skins. A sense of enclosure is everywhere, our past perpetually circumscribing our present.

As the pace of growth and change multiplies exponentially, we feel an urgency to preserve these physical shards of the past, and in the process, evoke their meanings as they relate to our present moment. The challenge for the preservationist is to continually find ways to engage the individual in dialogue with the history of these significant places. Site-specific visual art, such as Jen Raimondi’s haunting sculptural installation at Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island, is one productive way to encourage this conversation. Hibernation: Resting in Peace allows us to experience the history of Fort Adams as a magical phantasm of the past.

Fort Adams is a structure that was built for defense against threatening forces, but never tested in all its watchful years of duty. It is a place of anticipation and stillness, a site imbued with ghostly presence. Raimondi’s project, Hibernation, echoes the eerie emotional tenor of the Fort, rather than focusing on the specific facts of its history. The tableau, a sculptural diptych installed within the restored casemates on the Fort’s north wall, gives three-dimensional shape to the formless emotion experienced in its interior spaces.

As you enter the vaulted room you encounter, on the left, a tree cast in an opaque white material. In front of the opposite far right wall stands a large headless and mute blonde bird, towering over a fragile expanse of frosted grass. It is an uncanny scene, like a page torn from a Grimm’s fairy tale.

Raimondi’s Fort Adams tableau is an extension of her “desire for an environment simultaneously surreal and familiar.” The installation can be understood through the artist’s choice of forms. If you are familiar with Raimondi’s previous work, you will recognize in Hibernation her fondness for fantastic and distorted corporeal forms displayed within domestic environments. In this incarnation, the artist’s creatures are more recognizable than ever before as representations of specific animals – in this case, birds – rather than the suggestive, hybridized abstractions she has created in the past. The large, standing bird can be interpreted as a sentinel, guarding the vulnerable flock, and also referring to the protective role of the Fort itself.

In essence, Hibernation: Resting in Peace, speaks to the fundamental human need to protect and be protected. Huddled beneath the Fort’s sheltering embrace, it waits in anticipation, safe for now, but ready to burst into the world at any moment.