"Treading on Sea, on Sky"

2009

materials: plexiglass shelf, new balances, thumbtacks, c-prints, graphite on paper

dimensions variable, approx. 4'x7'

from Glebes's MFA Thesis Exhibition entitled "In Defense of Native Soil"

In this work, Glebes photographed the sky above and water of Baltimore City's reservoirs. The images were printed as c-prints. These prints were then affixed to the soles of the artist's shoes and worn about while she performed routine activities.

On “Treading on Sea, on Sky”: The Use of Repetition and Collection in Establishing a Metaphor For Circumscribed Routine

Repetitions are “illustrations of life situations many ordinary people will face or face
already.” – Rose, Barbara, “ABC Art [1965],15

Traces of our daily activities are left on the world around us without our knowledge or intention. "Treading on Sea, on Sky" is the visual manifestation of those traces. In this work, portions of photographs depicting water and sky taken in Robert E. Lee Park in Baltimore city are taped to the soles of my shoes and worn out as I attend to my day. The marks made from walking represent the traces my errands leave on the environment. These routine errands are unconscious of the patterns and effect I have on the landscape. The act of walking on water or air is a testament to the arrogance of the artist, and references the god-like status as shaper of earth, of creator. As an artist, I fashion the ability to walk on water – an absurd notion that, in essence, answers to nothing but the passing of time despite its grand implications of power. This work is a performance of repetition, underlining the routine and ordinary nature of the action. This establishes a pattern of non-awareness on the part of the artist to the marks being made, but also nods to the collective pattern of being unaware as a culture. The inclusion of the ambiguous text in panels displayed with the photographs allows each of the artist’s journeys to be anyone’s – they are specific yet vague. The collection and framing of these photographic remnants allow the work to become a specimen or preserved memento, transforming simple treaded-on snippets to precious reminders of travels. They are souvenirs of the mundane.
While Treading on Sea, on Sky contains an undercurrent of environmental activism, it is first and foremost a collection of routines and the remnants of the ephemerality of action. I believe that in experiencing the preciousness of the collection of these photographs, there is potential to hint to the viewer that his or her actions also leave fleeting marks on the world around him, on scales both large and small. I strongly believe in the suggestiveness of a work as a catalyst for change. As Alan Kaprow said in relation to his Happenings, “Power in art is not like that in a nation or in big business. A picture never changed the price of eggs. But a picture can change our dreams; and pictures may in time clarify our values. The power of artists is precisely the influence they wield over the fantasies of their public.” This work is not a lecture on the collective American arrogance, but perhaps it can nudge people to notice what their actions mean day to day.