‘Golgotha’: New exhibit explores theme of mortalityWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
A new exhibit by Toledo artist Crystal Gale Phelps will encourage viewers to reflect on and confront their own mortality.
“Golgotha” will run Sept. 13 through Oct. 5 at Launch Pad Cooperative, 911 Jefferson Ave., in Downtown Toledo. An opening reception will be held 6-9 p.m. Sept. 13 in conjunction with the Arts Commission’s September Art Walk. Gallery hours will be 4-7 p.m. Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and by appointment.
The installation will feature a raised platform and three tomb-sized pits filled with fluorescent light. Visitors will be invited to participate in the exhibit by writing a letter to the dead and tossing it into one of the pits along with a handful of dirt.
Phelps, a Toledo Free Press Star columnist, said her work often addresses the concepts of mortality, grief and loss.
“I really just want to start a conversation,” Phelps said. “I want people to be confronted with death, almost like a humbling experience. It’s so easy to get caught up with all the day-to-day running around. I just want to give viewers a moment of reflection, a moment to slow down and realize, ‘There are bigger things than me and there are things that tie me to everyone else.’ I think it’s really important to take the time to think about that.”
The exhibit will address death as a universal experience, Phelps said.
“Two experiences everyone shares are birth and death,” she said. “Death is something we all experience, regardless of religion, culture, country, wealth, all of those things. Also, after you go through the process, you kind of feel a sense of relief. I want people to feel they can let go of some things almost.”
Although not religious herself, Phelps drew on religious imagery and tradition when creating the installation. Golgotha is the biblical name for the place where Jesus was crucified.
“‘Golgotha’ is Latin for ‘the place of the skull.’ Basically, I used terminology taken from either the Bible or other religions. This one specifically has to do with Calvary and the Stations of the Cross as a way to direct the viewer to think about these things and the struggle of that,” Phelps said. “I wanted to take that religious symbolism and tradition going into the funeral process and make it more minimal, make it a conversation — almost a confrontation. It can be unpleasant to think about or deal with, but I just want to create a powerful experience for my viewers.”
Phelps said her boyfriend, Tim Walsh, built the installation.
“She had a vision and I had the background in construction and design to materialize her vision,” Walsh said.
“It was really fun to work with her, as the spark of an idea progressed from light to pits of light to not one but three pits and changed over time to make it accessible to everyone. I think she did a great job doing that. My background is in philosophy, so a lot of the themes Crystal is exploring — mortality, temporality, things like that — really resonate with me. When you walk in, it’s going to be powerful.”
Those who participate by writing a letter can sign a guest book and be invited back for an artist talk in October.
“The show will change as more people interact with it, as it gets more filled with dirt and letters,” Phelps said.
Launch Pad Cooperative is an artist-run gallery established earlier this year as a network for emerging visual artists and creative writers to enrich the community of Toledo and beyond.
“Golgotha” will be the first in a series of solo exhibitions at the gallery. A different core member of the co-op will be featured each month, said founder Timothy Gaewsky. October will be Allison Parsons, November will be Ian Welch, January will be Gaewsky and February will be Kimberly Adams. In December, the gallery will host “8×8,” a fundraiser exhibit for Launch Pad Cooperative.
For more information, visit www.launchpad cooperative.com.