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Under a Constellation of Leaves
JUNE 12 - JULY 14, 2019

Photo by Etienne Frossard

Under a Constellation of Leaves connects the vulnerabilities of childhood and the natural world through material transformation conveying fragility, memory, and loss. In the center of the gallery, a clay replica of a child’s sleeping bag has been seemingly abandoned and left adrift in a white field of a thousand sculpted leaves. A carrier of dreams and bodies, this object evokes preciousness and vulnerability; no longer soft it has been remade as a brittle, fragile object.  Through a labor-intensive process, Dang has also recreated a 10 ft version of the chain-link fencing surrounding her family’s backyard with its protrusion of stephanotis vines and piles of raked leaves at its base.  This sculpted version mysteriously sprouts human ears amongst the clay flowers and leaves, like protective watchers or empathetic witnesses.  Oversized seedpods hang from the vine as strange appendages.  Seedpods are carriers protecting enclosed seeds until maturation and dispersal, symbolizing the potential for rebirth, rejuvenation, and new journeys. 

The installation’s thousands of hand-modelled clay elements evoke the sensual forms of nature, but devoid of color they allude to bones and bleached coral.  What might otherwise seem nostalgic appears ghostly, brittle, and defamiliarized.  The fencing and sleeping bag convey a fraught and fleeting sense of safety within a larger context of power, exclusion, and dispossession in Hawaii, while alluding to wider crises in migration.  Stephanotis carries a Greek name (stephanos = crown, otos = ear) and was originally transported by seed from Madagascar to Hawaii in the 1800s – desired for the whiteness of its flowers and its scent – one of countless plant species transplanted and cultivated for human pleasure without concern for ecological repercussions in fragile environments.  Under a Constellation of Leaves embodies paradox: it evokes creative transformation and the wonders of the natural world, while addressing environmental devastation and the vulnerabilities of childhood.  Dang’s installation is suffused with a sense of loss, absence, and uncertainty, yet her work calls attention to the regenerative powers of nature and the role of art in bearing witness.

Rachelle Dang (b. Honolulu, Hawaii) has exhibited her work in New York at Fergus McCaffrey, Nathalie Karg Gallery, Motel, Hunter College, Cooper Union, and SPRING/BREAK Art Show; and in Hawaii at the Honolulu Museum of Art and Hawaii Pacific University.  Other exhibitions include the Haverford College Art Galleries in Philadelphia and the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles.  Recent and forthcoming exhibitions in New York include the Socrates Sculpture Park Annual, a solo fellowship exhibit at A.I.R. Gallery, solo presentations at Super Dutchess and mhPROJECT, and two-person exhibitions at Underdonk and Detroit Art Week, Young Curators, New Ideas V.  Dang has been an artist-in-residence at Shandaken: Storm King Art Center, the Studios at MASS MoCA, Cooper Union, Vermont Studio Center, and Sculpture Space where she received an Emerging Sculptor Fellowship.  She was awarded a 2019 Emerging Artist Fellowship with Socrates Sculpture Park, a 2019-2020 Fellowship with A.I.R. Gallery, and a 2019-2020 residency with the Smack Mellon Artist Studio Program.  She was recently nominated for the Dedalus MFA Fellowship and the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant.  Dang received an MFA from Hunter College and a BA from Wellesley College.