CHAMPAIGN — Curator Amy Powell knows the Kinkead Pavilion on the east side of Krannert Art Museum can seem inaccessible.
Set back from the street with its square, Roman columns and large glass windows, it may seem cold and distant to passersby.
That’s why she contracted Nancy Davidson, famous for her bright, colorful works of art.
Now, filling that space are brightly-lit orbs, hung from the ceiling and reaching all the way to the floor.
“It’s a kind of strange space,” said Powell, who co-curated the piece with Clara Bosak-Schroeder from the University of Illinois Classics Department. “It’s a big, classical pavilion built in 1988 by architect Larry Booth, clearly calling on classical references with the columns and clear panes. I loved the idea of Nancy’s brightly colored, feminine work in this space.”
The inflated orbs are made up of two inflated structures, which look like an upside down pyramid of spheres.
The pink fabric is lit from the top to fade into different colors.
The two identical pieces on each side of the large atrium are meant to reference Artemis of Ephesus, a goddess of fertility who is pictured and sculpted with many breasts.
The structures are framed by two braided objects that are inspired by Caryatid, which are female statues that hold up buildings in ancient Greek architecture.
The art doesn’t stop there.
“Nancy had imagined, ‘What if these sculptures were breathing?’” Powell said.
The museum worked with Lakshmi Ramgopal, a multidisciplinary artist who recorded sounds from non-cisgendered people, Powell said.
Every so often, a sigh or a groan is emitted from a speaker.
The lights and the sounds are both controlled by computer algorithms to change in a way that seems random rather than playing on a constant loop.
All day and night, the pieces are lit, but they stand out much more at night, which Powell said was a way of playing “with this idea of appearance and disappearance.”
When people walk by, she hopes they not only notice the artwork, but want to come closer.
“I’m really eager to see how people experience the space, both from outside and inside, and how peoples’ relationship to the museum is different,” Powell said.
“We’re in a temple, and that’s no accident. Often, museums are thought of as temples of culture. We’re set back from the street; it might be seen as inaccessible. This really is a work of public art. It helps bring the museum out to the street and has the museum performing, itself, in some ways.”