Weathersby gets hands dirty at Green Street
By Cate McQuaid, Globe Correspondent | October 8, 2004
Leave it to the Green Street Gallery to turn a renovation into an art
project. Director James Hull has contracted with artist Douglas Weathersby's
Environmental Services to demolish the reception desk, erect a new wall,
and create a storage and office area. It's not just a construction site:
It's an artistic work in progress, with the ribbon cutting planned for
Saturday at noon.
Weathersby is Boston's go-to-guy for the art of dirt. He received the
2003 Institute of Contemporary Art Artists Prize and proceeded to give
the ICA a good cleaning. What he does with the dust and detritus is where
the art comes in: sculpture, performance, photography, and video. He brings
the eye of a painter to the refuse heap, and documents the tearing down,
cleaning, and constructing in a way that crystallizes it into art. By
bringing a Zen-like attention to the smallest moments, he stops time and
shows us the beauty in what we habitually ignore. For instance, he placed
Environmental Services signage in Green Street's glass windows and videotaped
the way the light passed through them and fluttered over the back wall.
It's in videos like this, which run on a loop in a darkened section of
the gallery, that Weathersby's fine-tuned aesthetic shines. He held a
carwash to raise money for materials for the show (at $25 an hour with
a minimum job of three hours, he's a high-end carwasher, but you get documentation
for your dollar). The mesmerizing carwash video features close-ups of
lather bubbling on the hood, water droplets spraying and jumping, and
the quick dissolution of water after a chamois wipe-down.
The sculptures are more forced: a shard of desk juts up from the floor,
framed by a light projection that traces its contours along the wall,
hasn't quite transcended its trash identity. The environment that Weathersby
creates, though, with its mix of beauty, humor, and the spirit of Dada,
draws you right in. Being in a construction zone, as well as in a work
in progress, has an illicit thrill and makes you want to pick up a hammer
and help out.