Artist Kari Marboe responds to artist William Keith; currently displayed at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art
By Kamryn Sobel
As of September 15th, a new exhibit is on full display at the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art. This exhibit explores the artist Kari Marboe responding to the site-specific work of 20th century artist, William Keith.
The artwork presented at the museum explores questions of what has changed and what has stayed the same. Starting with the inspiration of Kari’s work, William Keith is known for creating large, majestic paintings of the American west. With these paintings, he helped advocate for the conservation of the land, as many people in the surrounding cities didn’t have access to these given landscapes. In an interview with the MOA manager, Britt Royer, she explains a particular painting of Mount Tamalpais that is currently on display: “Here, there is a very dramatic sky with the lighting and the mountains in the background. Approaching this painting once again gives us questions on what has changed and what has stayed the same.” Looking more closely, the Mill Valley Air Force Station was built on one of the mountains shown in the art piece, which physically changed its structure. Next to this painting are ceramic forms of Kari’s thought process on how to respond to what it would look like if the peak were to be restored.
In terms of Kari’s ceramic forms, her style as an artist is minimalistic and very interested in simple shapes and forms. She explores materiality, such as the brightness of the soil. Kari takes soil dirt samples of the earth or the places she explores and incorporates the material into the clay sculptures.
Another area that is currently on display is Conversations with Strangers at Stinson Beach. In this part of the exhibit, Kari interviews strangers on how this particular beach has changed for them since before the pandemic and now. Within these stranger inquiries, it explores how one place can have multiple meanings to different people. Subsequently, Kari says, “I went over to interview strangers about their experience in what had changed and what had stayed the same since they first visited. I gave each person a ceramic ring in exchange for their stories.” Below this text is a net of ceramic rings which describe the number of people and their experiences that they have had at Stinson Beach and how this landscape can bring a connection amongst its visitors. As for the ceramic ring art piece itself, the way in which it’s displayed represents the coastline alongside each narrative.
Unfortunately due to COVID, Kari’s original idea to explore Yosemite was no longer accessible. From this point, she restructured her narrative and began thinking about the aesthetic elements of the moon. In this section of the museum, another artist had sent Kari bowls which inspired the interest in the moon due to the shimmer of the glaze and how they showed a dark mysteriousness. To connect to the work she was creating, Kari contacted a professor to start this process of creating soil that is on the moon. With the seven ingredients she already had in her studio, she was able to replicate the soil for her artwork.
Kari also “remaps the boundaries of shifting fence lines surrounding Lake Lagunitas.” Throughout this part of the exhibit, she shows her fascination in how the fences reframe Lake Lagunitas and what it would be like to navigate in that space with the fence lines. In response, Kari created fence sculptures, as it speaks to the notion of what it would look like if it were to be restored. This portion of the display features an email correspondence between Kari and a mountain biker sharing photos of Lake Lagunitas.
Connecting to the Saint Mary’s community, towards the end of these displays is an area in which students can think about these larger questions and how it can be self-applied as students return to campus. With notecards and double-sided tape, students can draw a picture about how their relationship with the campus has changed or stayed the same.
To see more of the work on the Keith + Kari exhibit, head to the Saint Mary’s College Museum of Art. Available for viewing until December 12th.
Images Courtesy of Britt Royer, MOA Manager
Melanie Moyer '22,