features

New Gilded Age: A Theatrical Installation by B. Lynch

Grace Bromage ‘23

Chief Features Editor

In the newest Cantor Art Gallery installation, “New Gilded Age: A Theatrical Installation,” artist B. Lynch explores how power and income disparities act in our society through her creation of the fantastical world of the Reds and the Greys. The Reds live an extravagant, leisurely life in a setting meant to resemble the 18th century, a time rife with power dynamics and resistance. They contrast the Greys, the working class who live a dreary life in a post-apocalyptic setting with few possessions. While the two factions may interact with each other, their lives and their power are vastly different. Using various materials and mediums, including paper, puppets, and videos, Lynch creates an interactive exhibit that allows the viewer to be transported into this other world while simultaneously examining their own.

I had the opportunity to attend B. Lynch’s virtual talk, where she explained many of the choices she made and the inspiration behind the gallery. Lynch mentioned that she was amazed at how her studies in traditional Japanese theater played into this exhibit. She was captivated by how the Japanese theater was stylized with wonderful costumes and how it allowed for allegory and metaphor. She also found inspiration in Ancient Greek art and drama, which contains social commentary within its use of masks and music. Lynch appreciated how, by being theatrical and slightly removed from the audience, the Greek dramas explored topics they might not otherwise have been able to. Lynch also got inspiration from several 18th century painters and the philosopher Voltaire.

Lynch commented that there is no right way to engage with her installation as it has no set temporal expectations. The viewer has the freedom to move around the exhibit and become familiar with the characters at their own pace. As the viewer immerses themselves in this world of the Reds and the Greys, they are able to create their own meanings of the art they are seeing.

Graphic by Hui Li ’21. Logo and Screenshots courtesy of the Cantor Art Gallery’s Facebook page.

Lynch explained that “each character has talisman or a way they wear their clothes that says something them.” She described that one of her favorite characters, a Red named Vaneeta, always holds a mirror, even when she sees a play. This tiny detail serves to show Vaneeta’s self-centered worldview, a problem that Lynch believes is prevalent in our own society.

To further immerse her viewers into her fantastical world, Lynch utilizes videos she created. The videos, visible throughout the exhibit and on the exhibit’s website, make use of sound to draw the viewer forward and give the viewer an idea of how just some of the characters might interact with each other.

While people can still visit the exhibit by making an appointment with the Cantor Art Gallery, there is a website that makes the exhibit accessible for those who do not have access to campus. The website gives details on the different characters and displays pictures of the exhibit. The website also contains videos that allow viewers to look at how some of the puppets were created and show the five-part Red Baiters video series that runs in the exhibit. There is also a section detailing B. Lynch and her statement.

The exhibit will be running from October 13, 2020 to February 5, 2021. To view the exhibit online, the website is https://newgildedage.holycross.edu/.  To schedule an appointment to view the exhibit in person, you can contact Paula Rosenblum at prosenbl@holycross.edu.

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