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Glass Heart (bells for Sylvia Plath)
The Davis is extremely pleased to present the debut of this interactive installation by Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Theory Jenny Olivia Johnson. Specially commissioned for the Sight and Sound Gallery, dedicated to exploring concepts of space across media, this innovative work is the first site-specific project to intimately integrate music and visual art.
(How frail the human heart must be—
a mirrored pool of thought. So deep
and tremulous an instrument
of glass that it can either sing,
or weep.)— Sylvia Plath
Inspired by these words from a poem that Sylvia Plath wrote in 1947 at the age of fourteen, as well as by the intensity and depth of the colors in Sol LeWitt’s 1991 print suite, All Combinations of Red, Yellow, and Blue, with Scribbles, composer Jenny Olivia Johnson created a new cycle of songs, one of which provides the basis for this installation. By deftly incorporating fragments of poetry, haunting vocals, and the experience of sound that eddies around the visitor in unexpected ways, Glass Heart (bells for Sylvia Plath) evokes the unpredictability and uncontrollability of memory. A daring foray into the potential of intersecting emotional undertones among distinct pieces of literature, music, and visual art, this work’s openness to mutation and moments of cacophony offers an immersive experience in which we may recognize personal connections. Johnson’s “…bell jars, repurposed as a choir of singing glass hearts,” powerfully suggest the potential resonance of human emotion, at its most communal and empathic.
Curated by Elaine Mehalakes, Kemper Curator of Academic Programs, Glass Heart (bells for Sylvia Plath) has been generously supported by The Mary Tebbetts Wolfe ’54 Program Fund and the Marjorie Baum Fund.
Click here for the Gallery Guide.