Cultural Connections: Norman in Clermont-Ferrand Featured Artist Ginna Dowling

Cultural Connections: Norman in Clermont-Ferrand, France debuts on Friday, May 19 as a part of Les Arts En Balade, helping us further the bonds between us and our sister city through culture and art. Here’s a preview of Ginna Dowling’s work that will be showcased as part of the exhibition. 

Ginna Dowling
A Tale of Two Sisters – Jumelage 

Vinyl prints, collage, newspapers, magazines, maps, brochures, memorabilia, construction paper, pins, and Post-It Notes

Texture : Social

This is a site-specific, story-telling installation. The work you see here began in Norman during Dowling’s exhibit at MAINSITE Contemporary Art: Home of the Norman Arts Council this past winter. For that exhibit, members of the community were invited to tear shapes and symbols that represented what their community means to them. Those participatory exercises are re-installed here in Clermont-Ferrand in the color transparencies and the two Norman boards.

Dowling uses this process of participatory story-telling as a way to highlight and strengthen individual, philosophical, communal, societal, and cultural connections. Through this practice, a universal language is created – much in an ancient, pictograph style.

This is not the first time Dowling has use the concepts of “sisters” in her work. The white images of sisters were some of the earliest work upon which she applied her printmaking-with-vinyl technique. She has been waiting for the right moment to include these images of young sisters (loosely based on herself and her own sister) in an installation. They now serve as the visual representation of sisterhood and the relationship between our two communities.

Much of Dowling’s work has a distinctly political under-tone to it.  This comes out naturally by inviting community participation – the contemporary issues of community are often some of the first ideas that people want to express. It can be cathartic to share in a communal process that allows individuals the freedom to express satisfaction or distaste for current affairs. Dowling gives a community permission to do that. The viewer will see echoes of politics-induced-stress in the works reinstalled from Norman. Initially, Dowling was hesitant to “be political” (as she put it) with her installation in this place. However, upon arrival, it was very clear that people wanted to talk about what was happening, and it was a major part of the current identity and must be included.

Dowling’s work was most challenged by the space (Chapelle de l’Oratoire). We went through several sketches of how to install her work, and had to redesign several times as we encountered the physical limits the height and age of the building presented. In the end, her work has become more organic to the site and has evolved to fit.  Her strong, black and white graphics of each community serve as visual pillars to her installation, drawing the viewer/participant into the comparisons of our sister cities. As this installation is interactive here in Clermont-Ferrand, as it was in Norman, the people who visit will leave torn symbols and short phrases that describe the place (Clermont-Ferrand). Through this process,  Dowling is gathering data to complete her study of the cultural identity of this place and twin it with that of Norman.