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The solo installation is the creation of University of Idaho alumna Gerri Sayler, who worked alone to fabricate the 20-foot strands for her first museum solo. The show is part of her Juror’s Prize from winning the 2007 Idaho Triennial last September – an experience she calls “a Cinderella story.”
When Sayler submitted her work for the Triennial last year, she was new to the world of juried art competitions. Having just met thesis deadlines before graduating from the University of Idaho with her bachelor's degree in fine arts in May 2007, she decided at the last minute to send in her application.
“My objective was simply to practice marketing my work, getting it out there,” she says. “Flabbergasted is the only word that describes how I felt when selected.”
Sayler was one of the 25 finalists selected for the Triennial by the museum’s associate curator, Amy Pence-Brown, who is also an alumna of the University of Idaho. Sayler’s use of everyday materials – how she used unraveled twine and crosscut bamboo to explore the cycles of birth, growth, death and decay – amazed Pence-Brown.
“Each of her installations was site specific, meaning they were always different," says Pence-Brown, who selected Sayler’s fiber installations for the exhibit’s highest award. "The fibers she uses crawl up the walls and spreads across the floor in such an unusual and beautiful way that you just wanted to touch them.”
Sayler titled her solo exhibit Ad Infinitum, which is Latin for “infinity,” to reference her fascination with the cycles of nature.
“I am intrigued by the contrast between time and timelessness, how life exists as a continuum, encompassing both the temporal and eternal,” she says. “I like the art to seem as though it barely exists – like life itself, a puny speck on the time line of infinity.”
The artist is not interested in conveying meaning. “I like working in the abstract, so people can experience the work in their own way, to draw whatever meaning comes to them,” she says.
The idea for Sayler’s installation happened as a fluke, after she spilled hot glue on her kitchen counter a year ago, and noticed it looked like icicles. For a few minutes, she allowed herself to play with hot glue. “I was enchanted, it seemed magical,” she says.
Finished with unraveled rope installations last spring, Sayler returned to the hot glue and worked during the summer to learn how to work with it and perfect her sculpting technique. After winning the Triennial in September, she proposed that her solo installation use the hot glue as the sculptural medium.
For five months, Sayler transformed more than 300 pounds of molten hot glue into the glistening strands, turning out four or five strands per hour. To keep them from tangling, she rolled each strand separately into butcher paper packets, which were shipped to the museum. One by one, each strand was hung by a thin wire in grids from the cast acrylic sheets used for the dropped ceiling. The installation was a two-week process, involving two full time staff, two part-time workers and a handful of volunteers.
“To pull off the vision, I had to immerse myself completely with the repetitive, labor-intensive handwork. I learned to hang in there and do the work,” she said. “Let’s just say, it was my personal encounter with the seemingly endless nature of infinity.”
Her passion also is reflected in the title of her work; like other University of Idaho graduates, her leadership in the profession will continue throughout her career.