In less than a month, the United States will enter 2017 with only a few weeks until inaugurating a new president and starting a new chapter in history. Whether excited or anxious for what the future holds, now is a great time for reflection on a chaotic year and what society can do to progress. Artists from around the country aim to embody such sentiments in their hand-crafted lantern sculptures for Cameron Art Museum’s exhibit, “Art of Illumination,” inspired by traditional lantern festivals of the Chinese New Year. The exhibition will remain on display until January 8.
Nan Pope, manager at the CAM Gift Shop, has a pivotal role in curating the show. She has worked closely with its participating artists, from the moment CAM sent out announcements across the country, calling for artist’s lantern proposals.
“They originally sent in a design to create a lantern,” Pope explains, “which in this case scenario is a light-in-sculpture. This year we have artists from Michigan, Colorado, Texas, and all over North Carolina.”
Once the designs were selected, artists began constructing them with materials of their choosing. A plethora of works came in the form of paper, plastic, glass, wood, and even textiles. According to Pope, the one common element in each lantern is an LED bulb provided by the museum. “There are a lot of themes and materials, and we just want to show the community the unique talents through something very different,” she continues. “The lanterns are kind of a vehicle to the light and creativity.”
The opening reception culminated in acknowledgement of the top three sculptures voted on by a panel of judges: Rhonda Bellamy, Ben Billingsley, Bruce Bowman, Justin Lacy, and Candace Thompson. “We had judges coming throughout the week,” Pope says. “The name of the overall winner was ‘Honey Comb’ by Meredith Connelly.”
Connelly (a former Wilmingtonian, now living in Charlotte) used wire, metal, wax paper, and hot glue to create the intricate details in her lantern sculpture. The delicate look of the sculpture serves as a reminder of the fragile destiny of honey bees. Other winning lanterns also drew from environmental inspiration.
“It was a three-way tie for second place,” Pope tells. “We originally planned on having first-, second- and third-place winners, but we ended up having one first-place winner and three second-place winners.”
They include “Jelly Fish” by Katherine Wolf Webb, “Spherical Sampler” byRebecca Yeomans and “The Mother Tree” by Cara Bevans. Webb—who lives in Wilmington—used a variety of plastic materials to create a luminescent jelly fish. The thin plastic sheets are arranged in such a way to move with the air current, just as they would in the ocean. The design pays homage to dangerous façades of plastic bags, which sea creatures often confuse for prey.
Yeomans, also of Wilmington, channeled an appreciation for fiber arts in “Spherical Sampler” by using silk and linen yarn, wire planters, sterling, moonstone, labradorite, antique buttons, and other gemstone beads. Possessing the elegance of a chandelier, Yeomans’ sculpture demonstrates beauty through recycled materials and elimination of waste.
Out of Trinity, NC, Bevans used gourds, wire, clay, glass, and acrylic paint to construct her mosaic, “The Mother Tree.” In the description, the artist notes the design was inspired by her passion for nature itself.
Along with the exhibition, CAM held a lantern-making workshop in October, with 35 people contributing to the creation of a large vellum lamp displayed with the other lanterns. In coordination with their second annual Art of Illumination exhibit, they will host their Floating Lantern Ceremony again on Sunday, December 11. Participants can purchase a lantern sleeve to decorate for $12 (all proceeds go toward CAM’s educational programming) and CAM provides the candles for them.
“The museum staff has made wooden bases for the lanterns that are environmentally safe,” Pope divulges. “We have paper sleeves that fit over the lanterns, and then we float them on the pond on the museum’s grounds. . . . Some people choose to write something on their lanterns, such as someone’s name. Others might decorate them with art, or adorn them in any other way that they wish.”
Lanterns will be lit and set adrift on the pond at 5 p.m. There will be live music inside and outside the museum. “It’s kind of a contemplative ceremony with a very interesting mood unlike anything I’ve ever been to before,” Pope muses. “It’s a great opportunity to step back from a hectic pace, think back over things that are meaningful to you, and look ahead to the new year.”
Guests can visit the “Art of Illumination” exhibition at CAM in the Brown Wing during normal hours of operation. Admission tickets include entry to CAM’s other exhibitions, “Art from Flour” and “Unbound Narrative.” The Floating Lantern Ceremony is free to attend.