Inside Blue Sky Gallery, a separate artist-run space called Nine Gallery exhibits the work of its members. It's a particularly tough room. The two main galleries in Blue Sky show some of the most consistently compelling work in town and, so, they are hard to compete with. This month, artist Stephanie Speight's installation Rain proves that Nine Gallery is capable of giving Blue Sky a run for its money.
Thin white translucent ribbons, flecked with black horizontal lines, stream down from the ceiling at varied heights, like a rainstorm in suspended animation. There is an immediate and overwhelming desire to run through the installation, to feel the material on your skin, to find out what sound it would make all around you. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to do this.
The genesis for Rain came three years ago when Speight, whose day job is at New Seasons Market, was swapping out spools of spent labels and replacing them with new ones in the labeling machine. She was taken by the pattern on the spent backing: a black line every four inches along the length of pristine white vellum. Not knowing why, she started taking the spools home instead of throwing them away.
"I grew up during a time in which people made do with materials at hand," says Speight. "Making something out of nothing was imprinted on me at an early age."
She experimented with the paper—trying everything from washing it to twisting it—but it wasn't until she took out her mom's old rag cutter that the idea for the installation began to crystalize. She passed each length of vellum through the machine five times, creating 1/8" strips. "I began to get excited about what I saw piling up on the floor, and the rest is history."
Speight used tools from her background in textiles to join the seemingly endless strips into continuous loops. She creates the final effect by securing each cascade to the ceiling with a piece of a conveyor belt that she purchased at a garage sale for $4.
"I find myself looking to unmask a hidden beauty in some very mundane materials, to take something out of the world as opposed to adding to it." As a visitor to Rain, I would argue that by taking something out of the world Speight has added many things to it, including but not limited to our collective awe and delight.
See it: Rain is at Nine Gallery 122 NW 8th Ave., 225-0210. Through Aug. 28.