Contemporary Reactions: An Otherworldly Spectacle

A congregation of umbrellas, weather map projections, and a fabric pedestal holding dry ice as a rainbow of colors washes over it, splashing onto the wall through the cutouts in the cylindrical sculpture await visitors in Michael Ryan Handley’s Sublimation, currently on exhibit in UMOCA’s Street Gallery.  Handley’s unexpected use of digital media, sculpture, fabric and dry ice draws visitors into his hypnotic world. This world considers the generative power of water to alter landscapes, but the installation is generating conversation throughout the museum.

The combination of different materials and processes elicits a thoughtful response from viewers, encouraging them to spend more time with the installation. “I like how the artist mixes sculpture and digital media, and then something from everyday life,” said one visitor, as she watched the projection dance over the white umbrellas. Handley is able to make these everyday objects come to life in a new way. Animated weather maps projected on the walls mimic rain falling down on the umbrellas. A prismatic projection transforms dry ice and a sculpture made from a yellow rain coat into an otherworldly spectacle.

Final image1As a group of teens gathered around the dry ice to watch the swirling rainbow vapor, one girl exclaimed, “It makes me want to cry—but in a good way!” Standing mesmerized by the colorful projections, she stated, “The art makes me feel things.” One of the boys in the group thought that the installation fit into the category of “hipster art” because it doesn’t use traditional materials that he typically sees in museums. “It’s new for me,” he explained, “but it does make it more interesting.” Handley’s combinations of various materials used for manipulating human interaction with weather—like weather maps, raincoats, umbrellas and dry ice—reimagine the everyday objects as art.

“It’s interesting to have two very different visual approaches together with the same theme. You move from a subtle, more traditional museum organization to a new approach with different materials.”

As visitor Rachel noted, the installation provides a thought-provoking contrast to Handley’s evaporation paintings in the adjacent room. “It’s interesting to have two very different visual approaches together with the same theme. You move from a subtle, more traditional museum organization to a new approach with different materials,” she observed. Despite the different approaches, Rachel still recognized the continuing theme of water and the processes of nature in the installation. “It adds a richer texture and gives [one] more to think about that I wouldn’t have if [the exhibition] had ended with the [evaporation paintings].” Michael Handley’s Sublimation creates a new world with both familiar and strange materials that stops visitors in their tracks.

Explore Michael Ryan Handley’s Sublimation at UMOCA now through September 9 in the Street Gallery. –Allison Pinegar