Raleigh’s newest art museum, CAM, features some serious talent. Dan Steinhilber’s exhibit, “Hold On, Loosely” is currently featured in the main gallery, but will be leaving us on August 22nd. Steinhilber resides in Washington D.C., but his work has been featured across states. In this exhibit, he plays with ideas of recycling and exposes “society’s impulse to preserve the perishable”.
Upon entrance to the show, there is only a large shell of aluminum foil being pumped with air, from an air pump… seriously. It is such a strange sight that I truly wasn’t sure if this was the beginning of the exhibit or not. As you listen to the air filling up the ball of aluminum and watch the form take on different shapes, it becomes clear that this is just the beginning. Upon investigation of a crowd of people congregating in the corner of the space, I found green, plastic soldiers lined up on the floor and standing attention on the windowsill. Did a child put these here to mess with us, or is Steinhilber just that good? After seeing the rest of his intriguing work, I chose to believe the latter. We stopped to look, and ponder the purpose of the figurines, didn’t we?
The artist’s main goal is to take ordinary objects and turn them into extraordinary art. In one piece, he twines wire hangers, the kind covered in white paper that you get from the dry cleaners, into a sculpture. The result is a large monstrosity resembling, somehow, a delicate swan. Steinhilber’s work does not so much evoke thoughts of “How beautiful,” but “How does he make that look beautiful?” How is it that hundreds of wire hangers placed side by side, spiraling upward toward the ceiling, remind one of a swan? Perhaps only I saw a swan. Maybe someone else saw a white horse. The true beauty in his work, as it is with any great artist, is the astounding subjectivity it evokes. Regardless of what you see, and the fact the Joan Crawford would disapprove of such filth (no… wire… hangers… EVER!)—it’s modern, it’s though provoking—it’s art!
Perhaps more intriguing than the work itself is how Steinhilber masters his craft. A Mac computer, set up for public viewing, displays video of the artist composing his pieces and setting up the studio. In addition to using recycled items (e.g. a discarded refrigerator, cardboard boxes, and plastic bags), he also wields common household tools (e.g. an upside down pancake griddle) in ways you need to see to believe.
CAM (Raleigh’s Contemporary Art Museum) also offers hands on workshops to coincide with each exhibit. For me, it was taking scraps of multicolored plastic bags, rearranging them into an abstract pattern, and ironing them onto white paper—a craft enjoyed by children and adults alike. Be sure to see Steinhilber’s work before it slips away August 22nd—Just hold on, loosely, and don’t let go!
What: CAM- Contemporary Art Museum- “Hold on, Loosely,” Dan Steinhilber
Where: 409 W. Martin Street
When: M, W, Th, F 11-6. Sat, Sun 12-5. Closed Tuesdays.
How much: Free to members, children under 10, military, NCSU students, faculty and staff. All you other suckers pay $5. Call 919-513-0946 and visit camraleigh.org for more info.