Friday, May 29, 2015

Renate Haimerl Brosch's Apt Observations

On an exchange organized through the Oberpfalzer Künstlerhaus, Regensburg-native, Renate Haimerl Brosch is winding down a six-week residency at VCCA. Renate considers herself a three-dimensional artist although she works across disciplines. At home in Germany, she is known for her installations, videos and soundscapes. Being in residency thousands of miles away from her studio required that she work primarily in lightweight, easily transportable media like monotypes, photo transfers and small wire sculptures.

She did produce one major installation constructed of found items. Renate’s installations are site-specific, inspired by a place, its history, the impression it leaves on her. This is Renate’s first visit to America and one thing she immediately noticed is the abundance of plastic shopping bags. In Germany, people are so conscientious they all use reusable carriers when they go shopping and so these examples of a wasteful, environmentally insensitive culture are nonexistent there.

Renate was also unnerved by a visit to the Studio Barn from the exterminator during her stay. Combining these two impressions, she came up with an installation that for her evoked America and VCCA.

Renate began by researching all the insects she encountered at Mount San Angelo. She discovered that some are native while others are invasive. One species was introduced to this country in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, another the Asian ash borer entered the country in 2002. The bane of many a Fellow’s existence, the now ubiquitous stinkbug, supposedly hitchhiked into this country using a Walmart container from China.

Renate collected examples of the actual local bugs, which she mounted on the wall. Then she made quite a bit larger-than-life-size stencils of the bugs. She used the stencils to print an image of the bugs on the bags, which she hung in a corner of her studio in an upside down funnel shape. As you approach the piece you suddenly hear buzzing. She recorded insect noises at night VCCA, to provide a buzzing sound element.

What I love about this piece is how deep Renate goes, following wherever her investigations take her. I also love the way she doesn’t waste anything: the stencils are hung on the wall and the cut out bugs from the stencils are lined up like marching ants along the floor.

In addition to the works on paper and the installation, Renate also made a number of delightful wire sculptures that reminded me somewhat of Alexander Calder’s Circus figures. Renate’s share with his, a rough edginess and also a sly humor. Renate made one of Mike’s car complete with oversized cupholder—another oddity peculiar to this country she noticed: people never seem to be without a cup of coffee in their hand.

For her open studio, Renate completed a marvelously inventive insect mask designed as a nontoxic means of repelling insects. The idea is that with its needle nose, big bug eyes and fanciful antennae, this baddest bug is sure to keep other small-fry bugs away.

It was interesting seeing America though foreign eyes. Though she’s dealing with weighty issues, Renate does it with such warmth, humanity and humor that we can observe her take with the sting almost completely removed.


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