Maine-based artists Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen have installed a large-scale immersive tidal wave made out of wood at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. The installation, titled Hubris Atë Nemesis, comprises long, timber strips layered across the floor and up the ceiling to fill the open-plan gallery space, taking cues from the rough waters and wind in Maine.
Kavanaugh and Nguyen have worked together for more than a decade, specializing in work that experiments with materials. They were selected as the first recipients of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art’s fellowship award to create the installation.
The Ellis-Beauregard Fellowship Award, which provides a $25,000 stipend, reflects the vision of artists David Ellis and Joan Beauregard to support Maine artists with the precious gift of time, and to encourage, expand and sustain the courageous and imaginative dialogue that is fundamental to the arts.
In keeping with the award’s support of new, experimental work, Kavanaugh and Nguyen used only wood in their installation at CMCA, a departure from their previous installations, which were constructed primarily with paper. A second departure was the incorporation of a pathway through the piece as an active element.
“Our goal was to find a way to translate the visual language we have developed in paper to a new material,” say the artists, “but the impact of incorporating the pathway into the work was a surprise.”
Typically, the viewer makes contact with the gallery floor when navigating through Kavanaugh’s and Nguyen’s previous installations, but at CMCA the path contributes to the experience of the work as a whole.
The viewer is made aware of the movement of the artwork through their own movement over the undulating boardwalk. By unifying this relationship between the ‘path’ and the ‘piece,’ the viewer is completely immersed in the work, removing the layer of separation between art and viewer.
The title of the installation, “Hubris Atë Nemesis,” recalls the narrative arc of Greek Tragedies, in which Hubris, characterized as an arrogant confidence, transforms to Atë, a ruinous folly or madness, then ultimately to Nemesis, a force of retribution that resets the natural order. Like many paintings of the Maine coast, the artists hope their installation “captures a moment of suspense in a dynamic system—a snapshot with an uncertain future—and that it appears to be unwritten what the restored natural order should or might become.”
The Ellis-Beauregard Foundation and CMCA will partner again in 2020 to present the work of artist Erin Johnson, recipient of this year’s Fellowship Award. Johnson is noted for her video and sound pieces, performances, and social practice works.