Similar journeys, on different paths

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The College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University in Collegeville present “Trails and Parallels”, twenty-eight works by artist Dean Ebben. Ebben (a Minnesota native who now lives in New York) creates fragmented visual narratives that offer various paths for the viewer to explore, whether it’s through video, prints, or sculpture. Ebben says he’s attempting to put the audience in his own footsteps and then have them make parallels to their own lives.

Trails tend to wind through a place, some over grown and dangerous, some manicured and well traveled. Trails often disappear and reappear over time. Parallels run in straight or curved lines. They travel in unison, always the same, along the equator or in our cities and maps. I find that my ideas and experiences have this duality.

“Trails and Parallels” brings together a series of works that span six years, constructed through whatever means possible to convey a particular ideas. The most ethereal of those works might be the blue and white cyanotypes.

Cyanotype is a non-silver photo process and is one of the first forms of photography. I use the sun to expose the image on sensitized paper or fabric. I use objects to create a resist to light. Cyanotype is great because it is recording the rotation of the earth through the shadows of the objects that are being used as a resist to light. The object leaves an ambiguous image, which I have juxtaposed with text or video.

For me art making and life seem to go hand-in-hand; there is less definition between making things and going about my daily life. Similar to the cyanotype that is recording the day in which it was made, much of what I make has an imprint of what was going on at the time.

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Brooklyn Bridge, 2006

In the 15-minute video “Brooklyn Bridge” a simple walk becomes an almost Herculean task. The subject of the video is wearing shoes that are affixed to large buckets, forcing him to take arduous steps as he traverses the bridge. Ebben says he imagines the “bucket walker” to be not unlike the Greek character Sisyphus who is eternally pushing a boulder uphill. The bucket walker makes his way south through Queens and Brooklyn until he reaches the Brooklyn Bridge to begin his walk again, forever creating this pattern.

Ebben says his performance and video work tend to put the performer in a compromised situation. Performers in his videos are often times asked to complete a task that was awkward and imposed. Ebben says while the performers may feel uncomfortable in the situation, they often make some personal discoveries in the process.

They are put in a situation they normally don’t find themselves; yet they often adapt to the situation. Walking with the buckets becomes easier, maybe less or more painful. People reflect on their own abilities. It changes peoples perspectives and how they perceive themselves.

Often times Ebben’s imagery involves binding his feet or his hands. Other pieces in the exhibition include a woven tapestry, a ladder made from canes and a series of guache paintings. The exhibition runs May 27 – July 22 in the Alice R. Rogers and Target Galleries on the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University campus.

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