CREATIVE PEAKS: Curious Notions

By on May 2, 2017

Dance maven sifts through found objects and moments in time to envision a bigger picture.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Babs Case is a collector of things—a piece of paper torn from a deteriorating long-forgotten poster she sees in an alleyway while traveling; moose hair collected on a branch she spots while hiking; paper from an abandoned wasp nest she stumbles across in a yard. They might warrant barely a glance from most passersby. But for Case, they inspire her multimedia art.

“I definitely have an endless curiosity,” she said. “I love the previous story these objects bring with their very existence. Anything that comes from something else, whether an embroidery pattern, moose hair or piece of fragmented paper, has a previous reason for existing. When I use them in my work that previous story informs what I’m creating.”

Case’s most recent show, “Ladder Chair Birdcage Rope,” features multimedia collages from found items, and hangs at Tayloe Piggott Gallery until Monday. From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Contemporary Dance Wyoming, a professional modern dance company, kicks off Dancers’ Workshop’s summer season with a performance in the gallery. Case is artistic director of both the dance company and Dancers’ Workshop.

Case created the dance performance to work as an improvisational piece anchored to her art. She knew she wanted to use a ladder, teacup, rope, birdcage and chair, and explore the idea of how objects can take on different metaphorical meaning. A ladder might represent ascension or work, a teacup fragility or sharing, a rope connection or capture, a chair presence or absence, and a bird cage freedom or prison. While the dancers move the objects, viewers will be asked to participate and share what they see.

For Case, the dance shows how she creates both her performance pieces and her collages. She has always used collage as a form of visual journaling. Her pieces are based on personal experiences, told in an abstract and modern form. “My object is to open that world to the experience of being human,” she said.

A piece titled “Doubt vs. Knowing” explores learning how to be uncomfortable when you don’t know what might happen next. “I Can, Can” embodies the morning when Case wakes with a surge of energy for whatever challenges await and she feels the sense of “I can do this. I can.” It’s about passion, finding something you love and going for it, she said.

Pieces in a series called “I Speak French” feature characters on wood depicting people Case actually knows, as well as depicting characters representing American culture. “They originated from a moment in time,” she said.

Case’s feeling of turmoil in the world and politics inspired “Raise Your Right Hand.” She kept thinking about the idea of truth and where to find it. “It’s something that should be black and white, but it’s not,” she said.

“Battle of the Self” features a child’s drawing of a boat layered with an image of a knight in armor. For Case it represents the internal battle of being playful and also doing the work needed to get things done.

Case even installed part of her living room, including two chairs and a table, in the gallery. “I consider my whole house a collage,” she said. Everything has a specific place. The living room set up will be disassembled and objects in it used for the dance.

When the gallery asked Case about a visual show, she at first insisted she didn’t have time. A walk through the studio found she had a ton of work that just needed finishing. Case works on her art every day and often starts pieces and works on them intermittently so they develop over a period of time. The work became so engulfing after she agreed to the show, she secretly canceled a trip to New York, not telling anyone she was in town, so she had full days to work on the show.

“Babs’ work is really sophisticated and her collages are very worldly,” said Alex Keenan, director of art at Tayloe Piggott Gallery.

Case has the patience to collect things and keep them until she’s working on the perfect piece. Her studio is full of thousands of odds and ends she pulls from when she creates, Keenan explained. Her work, like her studio, conveys a sense of nostalgia and time passing. “It feels like a time warp,” Keenan said.

Case’s work hangs alongside pieces from Maria Porges, who also creates collages inspired by writing, and one hand colored and painted print by Jane Hammond, an internationally recognized artist whose work is part of the permanent collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Everything really is talking to each other in one small space,” Keenan said. “Everything has a sense of nostalgia to it, a sense of time, and a sense of pulling at the heart strings a bit.” PJH

Ladder Chair Birdcage Rope, a show by Babs Case at Tayloe Piggott Gallery hangs through Monday, May 8. Contemporary Dance Wyoming performance 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 5 in the gallery.

About Kelsey Dayton

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