Surprise, Delight and Curiosity at EAM’s Opening Reception for "David Wallace Haskins: Presence"

Waiting to enter the void

Waiting to enter the void

On Friday March 4th, Elmhurst Art Museum celebrated the opening of Elmhurst-based artist David Wallace Haskins’ first solo museum exhibition, Presence, which is on view until May 8th. Through the incredible efforts of the museum preparators, David’s team of experts and friends and museum staff, the elaborate and provocative show came together right on time for the six o’clock reception. David’s new interactive sculptures and installations allow visitors to experience their own physical presence differently, to perceive space and light in a new way. Rather than cause a sense of discomfort, Haskins’ work instead triggers laughter and childlike play and exploration.

A guest manipulating the Light Seeing Light sculpture at the Presence opening

A guest manipulating the Light Seeing Light sculpture at the Presence opening

Guests of all ages, from eight year-olds to their grandparents, enjoyed the fun sensory intrigue of the exhibition. In Light Seeing Light, the artist’s “Interactive Light Sculpture,” people shaped the light with their limbs, heads and other random objects, each creating a unique kaleidoscopic effect on the suspended screen. In Soundcube, guests entered a structure in which they could feel sound bounce around the room. The sound waves reverberated around the small space. It gave some occupants a pleasurable tingling sensation, similar to ASMR, an experience of tickling euphoria in the body caused by specific audio or visual stimuli. In Void Room, brave visitors walked through what seemed to be a painted black rectangle on the wall into a space of total darkness. Shrieks of laughter emanated from the room as guests encountered one another and the surprising physical manifestation of the void.

Attempts to figure out how the Soundcube works

Attempts to figure out how the Soundcube works

In the final gallery, visitors used various mirrors to alter how they perceive themselves. Whether they had their faces merged with a friend’s, saw themselves from a third person perspective or lost sight of their face in the Void Mirror in a Magritte-like experience, guests reacted with shock, delight and curiosity to the new views of themselves. Children, twenty-somethings and adults jumped around, ducked, danced and kissed in front of Time Mirror, which delays the image of their actions in order to let them see how their movements are viewed outside of themselves.

Friends look into the Mirror Monolith and see their faces on each other's bodies.

Friends look into the Mirror Monolith and see their faces on each other's bodies.

By the end of the night, there was an electricity in the air; a new inspired energy bounced around the galleries. Haskins’ show provides visitors with insight into how their physicality interacts with space and allows them to encounter light and space as physical presences themselves--experiences that result in a new level of self-awareness and excitement about the basic elements around us.

--Erin Clancy

Photos by Michael Will Productions, www.occasionalmomentsofbrilliance.com.