Exhibit focuses on transforming spaces at Bemis Center


By Krystal Sidzkyik, Senior Staff Writer

The Bemis Center, located in downtown Omaha on 12th and Leavenworth streets, is a place for contemporary artists to share their work with the Omaha community.  It’s been home to hundreds of exhibits.

One exhibit currently on display features work from nine different artists. The exhibit, called “Placemakers,” focuses on bringing together artists engaged in interventionist and transformative acts that make places.

“It’s all about sites, specific installations and engaging in the space of the architecture of the building,” said Alex Priest, exhibition assistant. “A lot of the artists who are in the show have a unique understanding of the building because they are only here for a short amount of time. They have a hyper concentrated experience of the Bemis Center, so they notice things that me or people who work here don’t.”

The exhibition includes seven commissions of new work and spans 12,000 square feet of the Bemis Center’s first floor and outside of the building. Two of the more popular pieces include Anne Lindberg’s “drawn pink” and Quynh Vantu’s “Squeeze.” Lindberg’s piece is a 40-foot installation and three-dimensional work of fine Egyptian cotton thread that is stapled between two walls. The piece contains 23 miles of thread. A time-lapse video of the process of Lindberg, her husband and a volunteer making the piece can be found on the Bemis’s website.

“[Lindberg] is very intellectual in the way she talks about the color; there’s no magenta thread,” Priest said. “[Instead] she used raspberry, Barbie pink, orange, baby pink and white, and together your eye mushes them together and makes the magenta. She’s very interested in how your eye can make color out of a color that isn’t there.”

Vantu’s pieces are less traditional compared to most other artwork in the exhibit. She’s an architect that just finished her residency at The Bemis in January when chief curator Hesse McGraw asked her to stay for two more months. She created giant fabric sphere weather balloons that measure 132 inches in diameter.

“As an architect, she’s really interested in engaging transitional spaces,” Priest said. “Usually the spheres are in the hallway, making you experience the hallway in a different way.”

She also created a piece called the “Courtesy Hallway” where two doors in the hallway can’t be opened at the same time.

“They block each other, somebody has to be aggressive and somebody has to be passive, and you have to hold the door open for somebody else or walk straight through and be that aggressive person,” Priest said.

None of the nine artists is local. Most of them are from the East and West coast. So what’s the importance of bringing exhibits like this to Omaha? It’s great exposure, says Priest.  

“We’re looking at the micro scale of Omaha and how we relate to Omaha, but we’re also looking at how we relate to the contemporary art scene in the nation and in the world,” Priest said. “When I come to the Bemis, I don’t really feel like I’m in Omaha anymore. I feel like maybe I’m in Berlin, London or New York. I like that placelessness of coming here.”

The exhibit runs until March 31 with free admission and parking.