From curator Michelle Westmark Wingard.
Denise Weyhrich’s intriguing use of found materials embodies the idea of time and space between.
Describe your featured work.
This installation is comprised of 204 stopped wrist watches festooned as paper chains, a dilapidated clock case with blackened burned-out light bulbs, and a discarded black granite tombstone with all text chiseled away except a hyphen. These authentic elements are essential to “This Time.” For me, it is all about the space between the chains and the tombstone. Each watch intimately clung to its owner’s body, yet has now stopped working as a time piece. And while we are left with the bleakness of the tombstone with nothing on it, these uniquely different watches dance in celebration—as vastly different in style and history as people are unique. But the real question is about the space between: “What happens between life and death?” The concept of celebrating others’ lives through time persists in my thoughts. Even if it is only symbolic, I love to bring community together. By looping together all these broken watches of my friends and others I did not know, there is a celebration of community and life.
Wishing to record the lives of others through their once-touched belongings and / or words, I love implying the human life with clothing and objects as their portrait. When amassing the elements for my installations, it is a quest for authenticity. My self-imposed time constraints to complete the gathering of the elements is at the heart of the installation. In “Tabernacle,” 70,000 communion cups passed through the hands / souls 70,000 times during 1½ years of communion, from Lent to Yom Kippur. “Unto Dust” is solely comprised of newspapers’ front pages and lint gathered from friends during One Lenten Season. As a university art professor, my artworks were my only voice. Gathering historical images from graveyards I seek to reawaken lost voices and testimonies of saints. In so many ways I am panning for gold and unearthing the lost treasures of the voices of faith.
What are you making now?
I really love this question! In July 2016 doctors discovered stage 4 cancer. Given 30 days to live, I packed away my artwork to face surgery and fight cancer. By God’s series of miracles, I am still alive and needless to say, excited to unpack! In 2016 my father died, leaving behind a historically rich household treasure trove. In digging through my childhood home, I am in the process of completing assemblage portraits of my parents. I have been gathering family handkerchiefs from two centuries to build a huge floor to ceiling sail. With 1900’s quilt pieces made by my grandmother and great grandmother, I am planning an installation tower. Cancer too, seems to demand an artistic response! While losing my hair I watched it collect and create little “hats” in the tub drain, I was inspired to make a ceiling suspension of “hats” being tossed in the air.
Why do you belong to CIVA?
As the director of a non-profit organization, I believe in CIVA’s mission and my need to be supporting artists of faith in all forms of the fine arts. Personally, I need to support artists who risk their unique voice to honor God with their gifts. When I was a professor, CIVA was also a place for my students of faith to find a community of faith in the arts. And as a curator, I find the web site and CIVA Sourcebook to be incredible resources for researching new artists and viewing artworks. Never having published my work in the Sourcebook before, I am especially honored to receive this award at this time. The publications, the exhibitions and the conferences are rare and wonderful additions to my life.
With a radial love for all forms of art making, Denise’s enthusiastic joy of life precedes her: art teacher turned graphic designer, advertising and packaging designer turned graphic design professor and installation artist, then retired professor turned curator. Denise was the founding professor of the BFA program at Chapman University. Since 2003 she has been the co-curator of SEEDS Fine Art Exhibits, a nonprofit that transforms galleries into sacred spaces with conceptual exhibits. Growing up serving nonprofits in outreach, Denise was raised with a mission to make the world a better place. Denise balances curatorial passions with her own installations.