Karen Reimer may be known as a fiber artist, but perhaps “alchemist” is also an appropriate moniker considering her compelling installation “Shoretime Spaceline” at the Hyde Park Art Center. In the main gallery, the artist has reimagined and inverted water, sky and shore through fabric, wood and sand, creating a distortion of time and landscape. Reimer is responding to the history of the Chicago Beach Hotel that once stood on the Art Center’s current location, and though her installation has impressively unloaded forty tons of sand into the gallery, she is not the first to fabricate a beach on that site. Built for guests of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the Chicago Beach Hotel’s “beach” was the result of dredging sand from Lake Michigan and moving it to create a more luxurious shore for guests of the resort.
In response to this manipulated landscape, Reimer has repurposed history and materials to create an environment that speaks to both past and present. Above a mounded beach and winding boardwalk, she hung a canopy of hand-dyed fabric, stitched together from a variety of scrapped cloth and suspended above the shore. A mosaic of circles and fragmented shapes in varying intensities of indigo acts as an ever-changing sky overhead, but its alchemic duality becomes evident with a shift in position. Viewed from the catwalk above the gallery, Reimer’s canopy gently ripples like a lake, inverting the horizon and transforming what we first saw as sky.
A sense of melancholy or nostalgia often pervades spaces where landscape has been brought inside and repurposed to reflect back upon itself, perhaps because it evokes the ease with which we alter land, or in this case, shore. As Reimer explores, the histories that embed themselves in a place never seem to vanish and it is the sense of longing that makes “Shoretime Spaceline” captivating. It is an installation that rewards lingering, listening to the echoes of voices inside and out and enjoying the sensation of suspension somewhere between sky and water. (Elizabeth Lalley)
Through August 13 at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 South Cornell