Artist Suzy Kellems Dominik on nature as a collaborator
The Wyoming and San Francisco-based artist and New York member talks learning to cooperate with the great outdoors for her newest performance, Rapture
By Osman Can Yerebakan Sunday 11 October, 2020 Long read
In the three-and-half-minute performance of poetry and movement, Kellems Dominik dances with the backdrop of her poem, I Can Feel, and the Wyoming alpenglow, which puts any landscape painter to shame. ‘The sun was reflecting all its lights while dipping into the horizon – it felt like I was in a snow globe of pink and orange lights.’ Equally combative and compassionate, her movements in a spit not far from her ranch present the artist as self-assured but vulnerable, on the cusp of a transformation into a next phase of herself. Physical resilience dates back as far as her teenage years when she was in the US national gymnastics team. The drone’s bird’s eye view captures her Eve-like presence, entirely alone in a deserted land.
In its 27.68 second flicker of pinks and oranges (similar to the Wyoming dusk), the three-and-half-metre sculpture moans, ‘I can feel’, surrounded by flashing lights and adorned with a bow carried on a blue bird’s beak. ‘I didn’t realise I had created something audacious at the time,’ says Kellems Dominik today. The work’s elated nature, however, predates its form. After a night of ‘spinning on the dance floor’ at a party in Wyoming in 2014, Kellems Dominik returned to her ranch and uttered the words that would comprise the work. Recovering from a painful separation, she could sense the explosion of feeling once again. The work did not demand ‘the copious amount of research’ she invests into the conceptualisation of her projects and appeared in ‘a moment of serendipity’, almost out of a primal drive for expression.
all but dead
the walking dead
The poem’s winding rhyme and appearance echo Kellems Dominik’s surrounding, where a serpentine mass of water joins lush green hills, sheltered by brushstrokes of clouds. She notes the transition from dimness to light throughout the footage, similar to her words’ ‘inward-facing’ tone towards a hopeful one. The nature, too, however, is in its unending flux. When the artist kayaked to the site for the shoot, the sand was wetter than usual and an uninvited scourge of mosquitoes had arrived. She weathered the difficulty of dancing on damp sand, and the bugs organically turned into a component of the piece, adding vibrancy with their buzzing and movements. ‘Nature is my collaborator, but each time she will make me work for it,’ adds Kellems Dominik.
Kellems Dominik occasionally visits the tomb while the performance’s documentation is still in postproduction, and observes the changes in her rocks. ‘Some of them are buried or swept away, or the writings are erased,’ she says. She enjoys seeing what she built change through time, disappear and transform, just like her grief or everyone else’s. ‘I have this fantasy of an anthropologist or even an alien finding one stone that managed to stay intact and witnessing my emotional autobiography.’ Writings or movements, Kellems Dominik leaves her light touch on nature in a way that’s familiar to each of us who has faced stormy weather but eventually reached the land.