New Exhibit at Housatonic Museum of Art: The Hypogean Tip by Rachel Owens

A new exhibit with connections to our local history is opening at the Housatonic Museum of Art on February 6, 2020. Entitled “The Hypogean Tip”, artist Rachel Owens’ exhibit explores both Bridgeport’s and our larger nation’s past, and will run from February 6 through March 21, 2020. The show is comprised of sculptures rendered in various materials, including large-scale casts in broken glass from the porch of the home of Mary Freeman (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) and works cast in coal and marble dust that invoke P.T. Barnum’s specter as well as his adverse impact.

An opening reception with the accomplished artist will be held on Thursday, February 6 from 5:30 pm to 7 pm in the Burt Chernow Galleries. This free event is open to the public, and will offer light refreshments.

Focusing on the relationship between what was before and what is to come, Owens’ work weaves together, both literally and figuratively, the surface and substrata of the ground to reveal its structure, material, and history. The porch sculptures, part of an ongoing project entitled Life on the Other Side of a Cracked Glass Ceiling, are a platform for visitors to climb and stand on while reimagining the site and the accounts it holds. This portion of the exhibit allows us to reimagine the radical past of the Freeman sisters and offers the potential for recreation.

Industrialization and capitalistic forces quickly swept away most of a bourgeoning community and have caused generations of both ecological and human collateral in the area. In the back gallery, a stovepipe hat becomes a smokestack, “shellscapes” cast from exoskeletons found along Long Beach and the Great Meadows Marsh, and an amphibious figure focus on the underlying causes for the decimation of Little Liberia.

The word Hypogean comes from the Greek words hypo (under) and Gaia (earth) together meaning underground. From the sea bed to coal-burning to stepping above and re-experiencing our community, the show is both a tip, as in a bit of information, and a tip, as in toppling, of our expectations of what is above and what is below.

“Imprints of porch floors, grasses, shells and leaves embedded within richly-colored cast glass document the cultural geography of Bridgeport’s South End,” said Robbin Zella, Director of Housatonic Museum of Art, “enticing us to learn about the people and politics of everyday life in Little Liberia.”

Programming to accompany the exhibition will also take place:

February 20, 2020 @ 5:30 PM

Laura Ortman

With varied natural and urban instrumentation, Laura Ortman’s music is known for compositions that alternate lyrical intimacy with layered improvisation, often experimenting with four-track tapes and remixing her own audio catalogue in an evolving dialogue with herself. On Thursday February 20, she will engage the scaffolded sculptures of Owens’ exhibit by playing violin as well as employing native instruments and digital effects.

March 5, 2020 530 PM

Lachell Workman, will engage with the history of housing in Bridgeport, CT spanning from the work of the Freeman Sisters during the mid-1800’s tying into the history of public housing in Bridgeport. Utilizing two automatic slide projectors Workman will perform a series of choreographed movements that respond to the projected images of the following housing projects, many of which have since been demolished in the city of Bridgeport: Father Panik Village, The Greene Houses, Marina Village, and P.T. Barnum Apartments. Following the performed movements she will transition to being seated on a scaffold and invite 4 selected guests to recall memories of living in these housing projects.


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