‘Sloth’, part of seven different exhibitions in the Aarhus 2017 series ‘Seven Deadly Sins’, aims to challenge perceptions of laziness. You can see the exhibit at Glasmuseet Ebeltoft until May 28th.
by Miriam Thiel-Alberts
Part of the Aarhus 2017 ‘Rethink’ theme, seven Jutland museums (Glasmuseet Ebeltoft, Randers Kunstmuseum, Horsens Kunstmuseum, Holstebro Kunstmuseum, The Museum of Religious Art, Lemvig, MUSERUM, Skive, and Skovgaard Museum, Viborg) have come together to present a new take on the seven deadly sins as seen through the eyes of seven contemporary artists.
Challenging our perceptions of laziness
The Glasmuseet Ebeltoft was very happy to be part of such an interesting collaboration, but when they drew ‘Sloth’ they felt this sin was maybe one of the more boring ones; being lazy is not as explosive as being lustful, greedy or proud. But the apprehension soon turned to excitement when Mexican artists Jamex and Einar de la Torre agreed to do the exhibition.
The two brothers are mixed-media artists, and aim to challenge the way we perceive sloth through their contribution to the series. They both live in Mexico and California, and often see the long queues of Mexicans waiting to cross the border into the United States. Mexicans in the US are often negatively stereotyped as lazy; a perception that the brothers hope to thwart through their work.
The de la Torre brothers use different mediums to create colourful arrangements of glass statues, lenticular prints and objects found in second-hand stores. The more layers involved, the richer and more fulfilling the picture becomes. Jamex and Einar like to produce their work in the country of topic, to bring a little bit of that country and culture into their work. For them it is important to use the right material for the object, and that doesn’t always have to be glass.
The journey into the magical world of the de la Torres
Right beside the entrance to the exhibition stand seven small glass bottles with the seven deadly sins written on them: Pride, Greed, Wrath, Lust, Gluttony, Envy and Sloth. By dropping a small glass marble into one of the bottles, you can confess to your personal sin. The museum is counting which sin is the most confessed. I wonder what sins people openly admit to? I drop my marble into the ‘Sloth’ bottle as I do love my lazy time, although I don’t really see it as a sin.
Going into the exhibition you are transported into an exotic and colourful world filled with wondrous creatures and objects. Flying angels with big butterfly wings printed with body parts and cathedral windows hang from the ceiling. On the walls are large lenticular prints that change their pictures depending on which way you look at them. They are filled with ancient scenes of life and work, like a Renaissance painting with a modern twist. Glass statues are influenced by contemporary Mexican street art, and some have pre-Columbian art influences. Religious images in the lenticulars seem to have come from early religious paintings – it all makes for a wonderful mix.
It was very important to the brothers to fill the entire exhibition space, to fully immerse the visitor in the experience, and the installations make you smile, laugh and sometimes wonder. There are so many things to look at, to sense and to discover, it’s a bit like entering a big chest full of colourful toys. Even if you don’t understand every single layer, image or composition, the pieces will touch and maybe even challenge you.
A home away from home
When Jamex and Einar came to Denmark, they finally found some information on their mysterious Danish grandfather, who immigrated to the US at the end of the last century before going to work in Latin America. There, he married their grandmother. The brothers grew up with very little knowledge of their grandfather’s life, but always wondered if they had a bit of ‘Danishness’ in them. In Denmark the brothers immediately felt at home, free to produce their artwork without worrying how they might be perceived.
There is a lot of humour in Jamex and Einar’s interpretation of the sloth, as they enjoy telling stories with a good dose of fun. One piece that really touched me and made me smile is a dog made of glass lying down for a siesta and watching butterflies coming out of his backside. An image that is so playful and yet so true. Don’t we all need some idleness sometimes, for the inspiration and new ideas represented by the butterflies to emerge from us?
I am leaving the fantasy world behind where eyes have arms and legs, skulls have ‘work’ and ‘death’ written on them, and my senses are stimulated in the sweetest way. Because there is nothing harsh in the exhibition, no sharp edges, no violence, instead all dream-like creations. I ponder upon my own feeling of being lazy, working too much and dreaming of taking a siesta under a tree. I still smile when walking through the cold wind back to my car.
And maybe my favourite part of the exhibit, the lazy dog, will stay in Ebeltoft reminding us all to take the time out to be idle sometimes, as the brothers will donate some of their pieces to the glass museum after the exhibition closes in May.