Review: artist Lorrie Fredette examines The Growing Presence Of Lyme Disease in "Proper Limits" on view at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey
By Megan Guerber
The Saugerties-based SciArtist Lorrie Fredette is known for her ambitious installations about disease and infection. Her new exhibition Proper Limits now on view at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey takes a brave look at the growing presence of Lyme disease.
As we continue to cut down forests for new housing developments, serious and previously unconsidered consequences arise in suburban areas. Deer have no choice but to migrate into settled neighborhoods, carrying with them deer ticks. Deer ticks, in turn, carry with them the risk of Lyme disease. Using hard data about this trend, Proper Limits provokes consideration of the dangers of reducing natural habitats. This exhibition asks how we can set ‘proper limits’ between man and nature, while suggesting that without doing so, we may harm ourselves just as much as the environment.
In her practice, Fredette takes medical news stories as her starting point, with research playing a heavy role in each piece. From there, she departs from her ‘science brain’ to her ‘art brain’ and creates fully immersive experiences from all she has learned. She uses repetition and neutral colors along with inviting sounds, textures and scents to surround the audience within the appealing atmosphere of a dark subject, letting visitors’ minds take them where they want to go.
The ambiguity leaves room for serious contemplation, and although Fredette’s installations often depict the gross growth of disease, they are altogether beautiful. Because of this, as viewers we are able to approach taboo subject matter with respect and honesty rather than fear and hype, allowing for new understandings to be made.
Proper Limits organically unleashes enlarged, spiral shaped Lyme disease bacteria throughout the exhibition space. Overall, 14,100 spirochetes, handcrafted from porcelain, are on display, correlating with the number of Lyme cases reported in New Jersey between 2010 and 2013. Within the space, one senses movement from these thousands of sculptural elements through their sheer repetition and accumulation. They writhe on the floors, walls and ceiling.
The gallery itself is transformed into a laboratory with sterile white tiles covering the floor and stark neon lighting overhead. Protective booties outside of the doorway are available for visitors to cover their shoes and prevent contamination of the ‘clean room’. Almost unobserved, a looped audio track of layered suburban and hospital sounds faintly plays, tying together the most direct connection between the environmental infringement of humans and the sterile, almost unnatural isolation of disease. Through such quiet means, Fredette enters into the subconscious of the audience, dismantles their expectations, and allows for introspection.
Proper Limits is on view in Studio X at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey through June 14, 2015.
You can watch time-lapse videos of the installation on Lorrie Fredette’s website as well as learn more about her creative process in her April 2014 interview in SciArt in America.