An Art Installation Approaches Its Ending, and a New Artist Talk Series Begins

Limnal Lacrimosa, which opened to the public in July, has reached its final month, and the artist behind it is scheduled to be the first to participate in an Artist Talk event as part of KALICO Art Center’s new Visiting Artist Series

By Mike Kordenbrock
“Limnal Lacrimosa” a free public art project composed of bowls, bottles and other vessels collecting water leaking through the roof of the old building at 5 6th Avenue West in Kalispell on August 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

March marks the final month for artist Mary Mattingly’s Limnal Lacrimosa installation at the old Kalispell Malting and Brewing Company building, where visitors first entering the dimly lit space are confronted with a grouping of vessels positioned to catch dripping rain water and snow melt that is pumped and cycled from floor to ceiling.

Limnal Lacrimosa (of lakes, tears), first opened to the public in July, and as Mattingly nears the physical end of the project that is concerned with geologic change, time, and the diminishment of glaciers amid a warming climate, she’s also slated to participate in the beginning of something new with the nonprofit KALICO Art Center.

On March 11, KALICO will kick off its new Visiting Artist Series, with its first Artist Talk event at Montana Modern Fine Art. The featured artist will be Mattingly, who will be in conversation with local curator Jenny Bevill. The series is anticipated to be a quarterly event going forward.

Bevill said she’s envisioning a conversation that emphasizes audience participation. She said she’ll be introducing Mattingly, and will discuss some of the concepts that Limnal Lacrimosa interacts with, like time as an element of art, and she’ll also give Mattingly a chance to discuss her work, including other projects she’s worked on. Then, Bevill said, she wants to open things up to a question-and-answer session from an audience that will be able to submit questions in writing, ask them at a microphone, or pass them along to the curator herself.

The event is free and open to the public, although a $15 donation is suggested. Bevill said that invitations have been extended to art students at Flathead Valley Community College, and also art students at Glacier High School, in an effort to include younger people.

The Artist Talk event is something of a milestone for KALICO, which in March 2020 was first preparing for its grand opening. Melissa Wells, the interim program and events director for KALICO, said that the Visiting Artist Series is something KALICO has always had in mind.

“Art is so personal on one hand, and also very public on the other hand, too, and I think that it’s really interesting to bring those dynamics together, which is what I think you get to do when you get to interact and have a conversation or hear an artist speak,” Wells said. “You’re bringing your ideas of how it feels to you, and then you get to experience maybe the artist’s process, or their intention or their motivation. I think that experience often opens things up for both parties, honestly.”

Though the series has been an ambition of the art center, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for that vision to be realized. Wells recalls being on a Zoom call board meeting discussing the art center’s grand opening and having the doors open for the first time when word began to trickle out about a lockdown in the state intended to slow the spread of the virus.

“We’ll never be able to tell our KALICO story without the pandemic because we’ve just been shifting and pivoting and changing what we can offer this whole time and what makes sense and what was safe,” Wells said.  

Marshall Noice, who owns Montana Modern Fine Art where the talk will take place, said that the Visiting Artist Series will add a new dimension to art culture in Kalispell.

“Mary Mattingly is an artist who has an international reputation. And to have someone of her stature come to town and put together an installation like this, I think it just sort of sets the stage for more good things like this to happen,” Noice said. “And the Visiting Artist Series that KALICO put together is sort of similar in the regard that we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to bring interesting artists to Kalispell and give the local art aficionados an opportunity to kind of broaden their horizons from an artistic standpoint and hear from artists and hopefully see some artwork they wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to see.”

Noice said that there are other opportunities for people to hear artists speak in Kalispell, but that there is a little more flexibility with the Visiting Artist Series in that it’s not tied to an exhibit “which is more of a major undertaking for an artist.” Part of keeping the series going will be simply keeping an ear to the ground for who might be in the region, or county.

“If interesting and renowned artists came to the valley, because they were going to Glacier, and we knew about it, we would definitely try to get in touch with them to see if they would spend a couple hours with us talking about their work,” Noice said.

 Limnal Lacrimosa has limited hours for public viewing, and in order to prepare for those Mattingly has had to continue to maintain the system she created, in some cases getting on a ladder to remove sediment from the tubing that helps circulate water. Included in the installation is a clepsydra, or water clock, that Mattingly created, which keeps time based on weather, and not on days or seconds.

The changing of the seasons has led to changes in natural light that comes into the space, and has also caused freezing and thawing of the water, and seeded barley and moss has grown across portions of the space which houses the various jugs, pots, containers and other vessels that catch droplets of water.

Visitors have included German art enthusiasts, students who stumbled upon the mostly unmarked art installation while driving on a Sunday afternoon, and a plumber from Missoula who related to the work, and its relationship to water, on a deeply personal level.

Artist Mary Mattingly sits among “Limnal Lacrimosa” a free public art project she created out of bowls, bottles and other vessels which collect water leaking through the roof of the old building at 5 6th Avenue West in Kalispell on August 3, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Mattingly first heard about the old brewing building as a potential space for an installation while she was living in Brooklyn. The project draws in part from Mattingly’s experience reading “The Woman In The Dunes,” by the 20th century Japanese writer Kobo Abe. The material of the novel includes depictions of characters whose life depends on their endless removal of sand that continuously pours into a building.

Mattingly arrived in Kalispell in April 2021. As Limnal Lacrimosa nears its end, she said she does feel sadness, but she is trying to direct her thoughts toward the world outside the old brewing building, including spaces adjacent the building where she has tried to remediate the soil. Mattingly said she has done some landscaping in that space, and has also seeded a first-year crop of clover. She also intends to plant and grow edible foods. Mattingly said that the installation in some form could be recreated one day. She also said she plans on returning to Kalispell.

“I think outside will be flourishing, I hope,” Mattingly said. “I’m looking toward that right now, and I’m not thinking of the loss, but I know it’s coming.”

The Artist Talk with Mary Mattingly will start at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 11 at Montana Modern Fine Art at 127 S. Main Street. Masks are encouraged at the two-hour event. The event is free, but there is a suggested donation of $15. A video of the event will be available for viewing afterwards.

 For visiting hours for Limnal Lacrimosa, visit https://www.limnal-lacrimosa.com/visit.

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