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Immersive Installations at ART 321 range from the mellow and inviting to the cynical and challenging

Kristin Schaeffer works on her "shadow boxes" for the ART 321 Immersive Gallery installation (Greg Hirst)

CASPER, Wyo — Artists are filling the ten new temporary rooms built over the last week at ART 321 with a range of immersive visions, from the mellow and inviting to challenging and cynical. The Immersive Installations gallery opens with a reception Tuesday, January 11.

“These artists represent this huge spread of what’s possible through installation,” ART 321 director Tyler Cessor told Oil City. “[Thematically,] we wanted it to be pretty open-ended, so we’re not the arbiters of what installation art is. We’re more asking the question of what it can be.”

Ismael Dominquez setting up “Pressure” for the ART 321 Immersive Gallery installation (Greg Hirst)

Some of the rooms will offer an “emotional escape and calming and meditative space,” Cessor said, while others address “traumatic and unfortunate real-world problems” in ways that may be emotionally challenging to patrons.

Gwyn Uttmark’s installation “Perfect Commodity,” is one such challenging part of the experience. Uttmark, who is trans, described their installation as a work of “endurance performance art,” and a frankly cynical depiction of the “commodification of queer bodies.”

One wall of Uttmark’s room will be decorated with their own blood, harvested by IV. They will be on site for at least two hours a day for the duration of the exhibition, offering to selling the chance to witness self-inflicted scalpel wounds. It takes the the trope of the “tortured artist” to a literal extreme.

Leila Pfaff preps her room for the ART 321 Immersive Gallery installation (Greg Hirst)

Ismael Dominquez’s “Pressure,” with wax spikes dangling over a live-cast human figure, also represents the menacing side of an individual’s experience in society.

Wilson resident Suzanne Morlock, a veteran of art installations, is creating a room filled with the “detritus of illness,” illustrating the day-to-day challenges of someone who struggles with chronic medical conditions.

Other rooms aim to create a more inviting experience and focus on the aesthetics of the materials. Carli Holcome, of Casper, will suspend six hand-cut bronze and copper plates from the ceiling, creating a geometric dispersion of light and shadow inviting the observer to “slow down and feel,” according to the artists’ statement.

Kristin Shaeffer of Casper is creating she calls several “shadow lamps”: plywood boxes with with intricately hand-cut geometric design that will be lit from within.

Ismael Dominquez setting up “Pressure” for the ART 321 Immersive Gallery installation (Greg Hirst)

“It’s meant to induce a meditative state,” Shaeffer told Oil City. “The ambiance they create in a room … you’ve never seen anything like it.”

All of the artists are Wyoming residents, and six are from Casper.

A panel discussion will be held with the artists at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 11. Audiences are advised that Uttmark will give a performance related to their installation, which could be upsetting. A reception will follow. 

The Immersive Installations Gallery will run through February 26.

See a complete list of the artists with installation descriptions here.

Note: An early version of the article said Uttmark would sell vials of blood. Uttmark clarified that they are instead giving out vials with a blade in them for free. “Money will exchange hands only if someone needs a vial delivered, and that money will only cover delivery, not the materials. The vials are sponsored by Art321.” Uttmark said.