A continuation of the 2010 Art Center exhibition Close Encounters, the Hyde Park Art Center presents Signs and wonders shall appear, a new project by Maddie Leach, celebrating National Apple Month. The New Zealand artist will conclude a yearlong commissioned work focused on the apple trees of the Beaver Archipelago – a small group of islands in northern Lake Michigan. Leach shares her discovery of the island’s unique attributes by way of a specific transaction and call to interested persons. A large painted sign on the Art Center’s garage door facade will announce the arrival of apples from the island and direct passersby to a site where they can receive them. Leach explains her motivation for the project: “I was interested to discover what might be made, or produced, on Beaver Island that could be considered rare, out of reach or covetable; what might elicit or contain particular conceptual qualities of ‘the island’ or of ‘islandness’? And in turn, what could be transported, delivered to, or exchanged with Chicago – and what might these communities have exchanged in the past?” The remote Beaver Archipelago has about 600 year-round inhabitants and a peculiar abundance of apple trees that form part of the legacy of the religious communities who retreated there in the 19th and 20th centuries.
In her work Leach often relies on the viewer becoming a participant in order to complete the piece. She primarily creates site-responsive, long-term projects that are conceptually driven and investigate new thinking on art, sociality and place-based art practice. Leach’s earlier work such as The Ice Rink and The Lilac Ship (2002-04) and Take Me Down To Your Dance Floor (2004) involved installing a functioning ice rink and a dance floor in public art galleries. Close Encounters is an experimental commissioning project initiated by the Hyde Park Art Center and curated by Chuck Thurow and Bruce E. Phillips. It provided eight leading New Zealand and U.S. artists with a series of shared experiences related to the nature of community in a variety of Chicago settings in May 2008. Part I featured works by Daniel du Bern (NZ), Tania Bruguera (US), Juan Angel Chávez (US), Walter Hood (US), Truman Lowe (US), and Wayne Youle (NZ) exhibited at the Hyde Park Art Center from November 2009 until January 2010. The last commission in the series will be a major video work by Lisa Reihana (NZ) in 2011.