In a quiet neighborhood on the south side of Des Moines this past Saturday night there were 45 people in a living room turned gallery, sitting, standing, watching.
Interdisciplinary artists Heidi Wiren Bartlett of Iowa City and Kuldeep Singh of Brooklyn, New York, had spent 24 hours prior preparing Yellow Door Gallery for their performance [ sharp tongue, quiet lips ]. It featured Nima Hamidi on the Iranian setar, accompanied by the tanpura drone. The performers entered the room one at a time. Bartlett first, eyes straight ahead, holding spear and sword, walked to the edge of her mandala sculpture: 100 pounds of salt, 80 pounds of soil, flowers, and candles. She circled the mandala dragging her sword through it, cutting it, keeping time.
Singh then entered, with chiseled movements through the Indian classical dance Odissi. Setting rhythm through hand-held brass cymbals and a sharp stomp, he charged the space. Singh’s arms and legs created geometric patterns as he conjured the devi deity within through dance (nritta). Singh looked to bring forth the androgynous, adorned in tones of red and blue.
A bell rung seven times. Bartlett moved to the center of the mandala, as she too evoked the goddess. Bartlett’s slow, deliberate movements each ended in a tableaux. She became a statue, a conduit. Kuldeep moved to the center of the mandala, embodying the goddess. At the same time, Bartlett picked up of a heavy ice sculpture and held it to her nude, porcelain smeared breast. Ice, for Bartlett, a symbol of immortality and impermanence; it also acted as a symbol of strength and perseverance.
Bartlett and Singh met, cheek to cheek, in an exchange of power, as they connected the feminine within.
Singh, in tree pose, cast flowers over his face and head, spilling them on to the floor.
The setar played on. Singh spoke, orating fragments of myths of civilizations gone by.
The bell rung again. The artists exited, one at a time, eyes straight ahead. A palpable charge in the air followed. Some viewers sat, eyes closed, listening to the setar’s final cord. Others arose, to follow Bartlett and Singh out of the room. Several, perplexed, left standing with nothing but themselves.
Bartlett and Singh’s show includes work on canvas, photographs, and sculpture. [ sharp tongue, quiet lips ] is up through August 20.
Yellow Door Gallery is open from 1-4 p.m. on Sundays or by appointment. Visit www.yellowdoordsm.com to learn more.
Review submitted by Emily Susanin Kessinger
About the Artists
Heidi Wiren Bartlett
I am an interdisciplinary performance artist from the Great Plains. My work is concerned with the portrayal, oppression and subversive existence of women in America today. As a white woman raised by a lesbian on the plains of Nebraska, I feel obligated to confront racial and misogynistic injustice and my escape from it, into the prairie. I see my body as an object of power and vulnerability and I see Nature and its processes the same way. Together these inspire a practice that illuminates the overlooked and forgotten. Whether creating laborious action or still objects, I want to blur the line between public and private; deconstructing notions of gender, race and corporeality through sculpture, photographs, moving image and performance.
A multi-disciplinary artist creating narratives and scenes in visual art, performance and moving image – surveying the breaks in colonial histories as a recurring idea. With his intensive training in the Indian classical dance of Odissi, under the acclaimed exponent Madhavi Mudgal in New Delhi, he is bringing fresh perspectives in equating the compound attitude of Indian classical dances into the contemporary art practice. He is the recipient of three prestigious residencies of the art world: the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2014), Yaddo (2015) and Bemis Center for Contemporary Art (2016), and also holds the National Freedom of Expression Award, Mumbai (2009). His solo performances include at the Kolkata International Performance Festival in 2014, Yaddo-2015 and Rapid Pulse International Performance Festival in Chicago, 2016 to name a few. His selected lecture demonstrations include at the Metropolitan Museum-NYC, Delhi University, University College London, University of Iowa and University of Nebraska-Omaha. Kuldeep is currently based in NYC.
About Yellow Door Gallery
Yellow Door Gallery is a residential alternative gallery space that is shifting the perceptions and dynamics of visual, aural, and performance art. Located in a private home in Des Moines, Iowa, the space connects emerging artists and collectors through salons, installations, concerts, yoga classes, and afternoon teas.