The Art Academy of Cincinnati presents “Retro-Spect,” an exhibition of design work by Christy Carr Schellhas. Using contemporary design aesthetics in tandem with green design sensibilities, Schellhas presents a body of work that examines the ways that memories, perceptions and experiences are contextualized into a world characterized by meaningful being, sense, continuity and changing perspectives throughout the course of life.
A philosophical inquiry into how world presence is shaped, “Retro-Spect” explores the artist’s curiosity about the ways relationships and experiences emerge from environments that appear to exist objectively in the natural world as ready-made components of human experience. Schellhas examines the manner in which meaning in the world takes form, and she focuses on the acts of remembering and reflecting in examining variances in different people’s accounts of the same phenomena experienced under apparently similar conditions.
Schellhas asks the following questions and attempts to formulate answers through ink and graphite drawings on vellum, self-wrought maps, handwritten text, journals, letters and mixed-media installations using glycerin. How do we remember? Moreover, how is it that memories shape our lives and form who we are? How is it that we remember certain experiences while forgetting others? How is it that memory, with its mutable nature, can feel so solid and fixed? Why is it that, with how much everyone is affected and shaped by memory and experience, memory is not given just consideration in matters of importance? How is it that we attribute significance to certain information: such as quantifiable, objective information, yet we do not give much credence or validity to information that cannot be quantified, for example, feelings or memories?
Her fascination with the role of memory in the creation of the sense of self is exhibited in “40 Years,” a floor installation consisting of 2,080 glycerin cylinders representing the number of weeks the artist has been alive. Each cylinder measures two inches in diameter and varies in height from one to ten inches. The varying heights represent high points and low points and serve as a topographic rendering of experiences charted over the course of a life. Schellhas contemplates varying perspectives that have shaped her life over time and examines this change in outlook and perspective in relation to the constancy of maintaining the same identity throughout continual change.
Unlike cartographic renderings, Schellhas’ maps look back over the course of her 40 years, mapping out memories and experiences in a manner that makes visible and tangible forces whose power had previously been obscured by their lack of physical being. Schellhas applies the principles of architectural drafting to create “reverse blueprints” of spaces and places she has inhabited. Blueprints, by definition, are used for architectural planning or charting out something anticipated, rather than something remembered. Schellhas’ maps are “reverse blueprints” because they use the language of architecture to map out elements of things past: her childhood bedroom, the house in which it was situated, the street where she grew up and the experiences she associates with those spaces.
In Schellhas’ maps, the artist juxtaposes plan drawings of remembered or psychological spaces with handwritten memories that occurred in these spaces. Glycerin provides a material extension to interpret the transient and transcendent experience of these memories. Taking this ordinary, environmentally friendly material and transforming it into something new and unexpected reflects the experience of remembering. This material offers the possibility to cleanse and to be cleansed. Each of the 2,080 colorful cylinders can be repurposed as household soap. In this sense, one can experience some aspect of “Retro-Spect” by simply bathing.
In keeping with Schellhas’ commitment to green design, there will be no vinyl signage, lettering or numbering in this exhibition. During her Gallery Talk at 7:00 pm on Friday, February 25, the artist will explain this design choice and the role of retrospection in examining the life of an artist.
The Gallery Talk and Exhibition are free and open to the public.
is an Associate Professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati where she currently heads the program in Visual Communication Design. Schellhas was instrumental in bringing the vision and mission of sustainable design to the Art Academy's 1212 Jackson Building, which was awarded LEED Certification by the U. S. Green Building Council in 2008. In the Fall of 2010, Schellhas served as a Fellow at the Pratt Academic Leadership Summit on Sustainability in New York City. Before joining the Art Academy, she taught at Miami University, the University of Washington and Northern Kentucky University.
Schellhas is co-owner of "hum. the design thinking company," a design studio focusing on information design. Before starting "hum,” Schellhas worked as a design consultant in Nashville and Cincinnati. Her design work includes advertising, branding, publishing, interaction design and information architecture. Her work is cross-disciplinary and creates a dialogue between design and fine art. Her work has been exhibited in Cincinnati, Nashville and Seattle and has been published internationally.
In 2010, during her sabbatical, she launched Broadminded: Bringing Creativity to Life, a venture dedicated to enriching lives by reconnecting people with their own creativity through workshops and creative consulting. Schellhas earned her BFA from Miami University and her MDes from the internationally renowned School of Design in the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning at the University of Cincinnati.
The Pearlman Gallery is on the first level of the North Building at 1212 Jackson Street across from the Gateway Parking Garage. All exhibitions are free and open to the public. Hours are 9-9 Monday through Friday and 9-5 on Weekends. 513.562.6262.