The Function of [an] Imaginary
the Relationship between Providence and Play
University of North Carolina, Rowe Side Gallery
Guest curator, Alice Cookson
Essay by Jenny Mushkin Goldman
Independent Curator, Art Historian
The Function of an Imaginary is a site-specific installation by April Marten. Originally based on her MFA thesis at the University of Tennessee, this will be the work’s first showing. It extends from the schema of a cathedral, though wonky and unfamiliar.
Patrons enter the liminal space of a narthex, flanked by a Botanica shop and pink neon chapel, before entering the nave. Emanating light, moving images, sweet smells, and sounds layer the central space with an ominous yet attractive, multi-sensory experience. Tucked behind hidden passages, viewers discover the realm of manufactured magic-making materials. Within the subverted worship space, personal contemplation dominates historically imprinted ideas and the power to emancipate oneself becomes evident.
The origin of possibility and order, in 66 parts, as it pertains the evolution of a life
14 x 6 x 4.5 in
I am drawn to the use of iconography in contemporary art as a device to subtly communicate with viewers. It provides conceptual depth yet allows for a personal experience and individual interpretation of the art. April’s work focuses heavily on symbolism and what it means for a physical space or object to be a placeholder for an emotion, behavior, or belief. Though her work points out difficult truths in our social systems, April has found her own playful language to pull us into the conversation.
Her use of pastel colors and domestic items in Function of [an] Imaginary draws you in with its softness, femininity, and connection to childhood memories. Unexpected alterations such as unusual placement, change in color, or added texture drastically change what these items represent. In The Function of [an] Imaginary, April confronts the delicate overlap between seeking contentment and consumerism, and how ideologies and social systems play into that dynamic.
My fascination with the Frances Wasn’t a Saint series and Function of [an] Imaginary comes from April’s use of modern-day materials as representation of the sublime or lack thereof. I would find myself daydreaming about it months later, still asking myself questions and still thinking about how I saw myself in the work. April’s work has always felt otherworldly yet also accessible. Now, Function of [an] Imaginary is available to all.
– Alice Cookson