Artist: Vanessa Olivarez
Exhibition: Don’t Be Careful, Be Gentle
Media: Video Installation, Sculpture
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Dennis W. Dutzi Gallery
This week I got to experience the art installation Don’t be careful, Be Gentle by Vanessa Olivarez. Vanessa is a current CSULB senior year student majoring in Fine arts in Sculpture. She is a current resident of Long Beach California and this is one of the several shows she has installed in the galleries. Vanessa is currently focused on working with video art forms but has also done different varieties of media in the past.
The installation Don’t be careful, Be Gentle was physically a very simple installation but with a lot of meaning behind it. The installation was in the Dutzi gallery and included sculpture and video media. To enter the gallery you must first pass through black drapes that help keep the gallery’s lighting enclosed. The lighting inside is illuminated to pink and violet tones. In the middle of the room there is a clear mechanism that appears to portray a seesaw with its side to side/up down motions. It shifts sides about every 30 seconds. On both sides of the see saw a video is being played on the wall by projection. The video; as I learned from the artist herself, include clips of different areas that she has visited that she decided were worthy of filming. They include an empty train car from New York, an order window in an empty restaurant, and a crowd of people moving about the city. The video also has childhood related clips such as a tree house and a ballerina from a music box. The audio of the musical box is also played and is important to the installation. There is also a short clip of a computer screen on which the words “fragile being” are being typed and finally an animated still of a faceless character as she appears to be staring in a mirror. Finally on the corner of the gallery floor there is a small television with a clear barrier placed in front of it. The television is playing a video that includes images of a girl waking on a short ledge, an individual closing a glass door, an images of ceramic figures that appear to be clowns.
From Vanessa Olivarez’s own words and installation statement, we learn that Don’t Be careful, Be Gentle is an installation about the feelings and emotions we have as individuals experiencing change, restrictions, loneliness, stress, and trying to find our own balance in and of life. To Olivarez the installation represents her battle with loneliness and the constant search for who she wants to become while embracing who she is. These emotions portrayed derive from her current position in life as a college age student. There is a constant stress and pressure to have a future plan in front of her but still yearns for life to be easy as in childhood. The audio of the music box sets the tone for nostalgia and reminds us of the past. The busy city sounds and adult images are what is expected of us as adults. And the corner television is supposed to be a direct representation of her. The corner television video is full of images of the “in-between” of childhood and adult hood, where she currently sees herself at. She is trying to balance life’s struggles but is still protected or held back by the clear barrier in front of the television. While the projected images features a faceless girl it can represent herself and everyone else who currently feels the stress and emotions of growing up and leaving the past behind.
I really enjoyed Vanessa Olivarez’s installation of Don’t Be Careful, Be Gentle. To me the color tone of the gallery defiantly transported me to a fantasy like state. The images projected reminded me of my own childhood and adult hood. The seesaw is like a time machine that I think we all have in ourselves. This seesaw so easily shifts because we have a constant struggle to act like adult but yet never want to lose our childlike innocence. I really liked and felt connected to Vanessa’s representation of herself through the television in the corner. I think that the clear barrier can be a positive or a negative; it can either protect us from harm or prevent us from moving forward. Such is life and ourselves; we never know when something is good or bad and so maybe our personal barriers prevent us from wonderful experiences or keep us guarded until we are ready. When I read her installations title; Don’t be careful, Be Gentle I got a sense of optimism. I think it stands for a motivational push, I think she wants us to move toward explorations and risk but at our own pace when ready. If we stay too careful we will never get much done, but if we are gentle with ourselves; we learn and try to perfect this thing called life.