”From the ground, we see clouds as light objects that dance across a blue sky, or the menacing dark grey volumes that indicate a storm.” At Mark Rumsey’s temporary exhibition ”Spring Cloud” at the Dittmar Gallery (open through May 6), a student-run art gallery in Norris, clouds mean much more than rain.
”It’s yellow and big, people come to see what is going on,” says Megan Lee, Dittmar executive coordinator. ”We chose Mark Rumsey because he was doing exhibitions adapted to spaces like Dittmar,” the Weinberg sophomore says. Rumsey defines himself as an installation artist, as he manipulates and transforms space to see how people interact with it. ”There are different levels of understanding (…) Anyone can come and appreciate it,” he says.
Rumsey heard about Dittmar Gallery’s opportunities through web resources, such as Chicago Artists Resource website. ”I applied for the Dittmar opportunity because it was local enough to where I live to make it financially and logistically feasible,” he explains.
In this exhibition, which belongs to a set of art pieces on cloud forms displayed throughout the country, Rumsey questions the relationship between light and form. ”The light plays with the natural opacity of the vellum from which the droplets are constructed,” he writes. The folded and sewn paper pieces captivate a declension of pale colors through the interplay of lights. The argyle shape of clouds is meant to represent divinity and nature as they develop across time and space.
This exhibition took Rumsey 40 hours of sewing and 3 days to hang the final art piece. ”I try to be resourceful with materials,” Rumsey says. ”It’s a pretty organic process.” For ”Spring Cloud”, he did not have a chance to examine the space at Dittmar Gallery first hand; instead, he based his artwork on the gallery map. That is why he went through two or three iterations before he settled on the final.
Rumsey’s conception of art is participative. “It is not a moment of walking into a space to gaze upon an object on a wall. It presents an opportunity to experience an environment,” he says in the opening paragraph about the exhibition. Some students lie on the floor to stare at the ceiling; others move around the space. As one moves forward in the space, yellow clouds get closer to the floor and, for once, keeping one’s head in the clouds is highly recommended.
When he’s not sending applications for voluntary art-based opportunities, Rumsey devotes his time to non-profit programs in Grand Rapids, MI. He belongs to the marketing committee of a Grand Rapids-based association for young nonprofit professionals. Rumsey also covers art events for the Rapidian, a citizen news source. He appreciates the idea of building a bridge between the artist community and economic development projects. He also gives lectures in universities all over the country. ”It’s the trick of the contemporary world: in your hometown, you do not do that much,” he says.
The 37-year-old artist did not come from a lineage of artists. Growing up in a rural community mostly composed of blue-collar workers, he was the only child among his seven relatives to graduate from college. When he went to Grand Valley State University in Michigan, he was interested in mathematics and sciences until he decided that these fields were ”boring and predictable.”
Rumsey has spent his three days before the opening exhibition last Thursday night working on his other masterpiece: his garden. Because of his environnemental interest, he also volunteers for Trees Please, a neighborhood association. Yet, he never thought of creating artwork in outdoor spaces.
Under a ceiling of lantern-like yellow clouds, Rumsey sat next to students, engaging them in conversation. After I take a picture of him, Rumsey turns to me and says, ”I charge.” He bursts out laughing.