Art to Touch, Taste, Hear And Walk All Over

‘Sensory Overload' Takes Artistic Endeavor To a New Level

Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:20pm

Not many art exhibitions allow visitors to nibble the artwork. But if you’re looking to taste something new, munch on Nut Stand, a colorful 2-foot-tall sculpture of five flower-shaped mouths, all filled with walnuts.

A nutcracker sits on the table for cracking shells, and a sign asks those who indulge to leave the remains on the sculpture — it’s all part of the art.

Nut Stand is one of more than 20 multimedia art pieces on display at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The exhibit, “Sensory Overload,” features videos, canvas paintings and various objects that, though extremely different in medium, have a single common denominator: Each plays on humanity’s five senses.

With the hope of making visitors more “physically aware” of touch, taste, sight, smell and sound, each piece of art incorporates at least two of the five senses and draws attention to the different “methods of perception,” according to the Corcoran.

Not every work of art in the exhibit employs a literal connection to the five senses, said co-curator Lorelle Rau, a Cochran College of Art and Design exhibition assistant. She explained that although some works allow you to taste and touch or hear and see, others merely remind viewers of these senses.

For example, “Imprint,” a series of ceramic fibers tacked to the wall and intersecting at one point, appears three-dimensional — though it’s mostly two-dimensional — and some flat canvases depict textured surfaces. Five hanging puppets have symbols for the senses — a purple ear, blue tongue, green hand, yellow nose and red eye — that replace the dolls’ heads.

Rau said the museum received more than 200 digital submissions for “Sensory Overload” from across the country.

“We wanted an exhibit that was more reflective of modern-day art,” Rau said. She said most contemporary art pieces are multimedia, so she and exhibit organizers sought entries with interactive components.

In Marie Hannigova Lee’s “Eye Spy Series,” three cream-colored window blinds hang from the wall with hundreds of mini plastic eyeballs glued on each fold. A video featuring the universal sound and action of yawning depicts kids and adults from all around the world yawning over and over again. A black ball of feathers invites people to ruffle the display with their fingers.

George Lorio designed a 3-D tick-tack-toe game that sits in the middle of the room.

“People can walk on it,” he said, explaining the visual and physical touch stimulation of his piece. It is also a political statement. Lorio, a Texan who lives near the Mexican border, said the U.S. Border Patrol inspired his piece.

“It’s like a game people play, crossing the border,” he said. “Who can you catch? Who will get caught?”

“Sensory Overload” is in Gallery 31 at the Corcoran (500 17th St. NW) and is open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The exhibition will close Aug. 1.