ITHACA, N.Y.—When stepping into the rectangular gallery space at The Cherry Arts, looming strings, mechanical designs and drawings depicting different dimensions altogether appear — all interconnected but with a mind seemingly of their own. The garage doors, open windows bleeding in natural sunlight and pipes hanging down from the ceiling are all incorporated into the very design and fabric of the art piece itself.
This is something that Rita Scheer, the curator of the new exhibit “stringmachine,” did intentionally when setting up their latest gallery installation.
For Scheer, who has shown this piece before in other galleries and felt restricted by their spaces, curating at The Cherry Arts gallery allowed for a unique level of freedom.
“As long as I didn’t interfere with the sprinkler system, I was allowed to weave the building itself,” Scheer said. “All of the piping and vents that allow air flow act as a drawing. I thought that would be really strong with areas that were transparent and partially transparent.”
In Scheer’s artist statement, they discuss how constant, recognizable items and materials around us in life — everything from telephone lines and heating systems to doors — frequently go unrecognized by the human eye and taken for granted.
“The latent possibilities of these structures are what my work explores,” Scheer said. “I ask, how can we repurpose pieces of a process to make objects that change our relationship to the built environment?”
The installation’s presence at the gallery came about as The Cherry Arts was looking for a new exhibit to open alongside their new aerial play “Air Heart,” which played from Oct. 19-29. The play tells a story of women’s role in technological development through the story of pioneering female pilot Amelia Earhart, showing a clear connection between the two works of art.
“This machine exhibition came from a pairing with a performance work, which is something we’d like to do more because it worked out so beautifully this time,” Buggeln said. “It’s very gratifying to have something really built-in like this, responding to the space.”
The opening exhibit took place on Oct. 20 from 5-7:30 p.m., with the exhibit remaining open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from 1-5 p.m. until Dec. 10. Scheer said that people had a lot of questions about weaving and the specific systems they were working with.
“That was exciting, being able to talk directly with people about the curiosities that were sparked by the work,” Scheer said.
Samuel Buggeln, artistic director of The Cherry Arts, said one of the coolest parts of the opening night reception was that as an emerging artist, Scheer could introduce people they don’t know to the exhibit for the first time.
“I think people have really enjoyed it,” Buggeln said. “It’s very unusual and evocative, it makes you think about how we think about art fitting into spaces, what machines are made of and how they interact with our lives. I think it’s been very successful, we’ve been really pleased with it.”
As a 2023 MFA graduate from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Scheer said their education as a painter and drawer allowed them to bring those artistic languages to this installation.
“It’s something I’m constantly learning from,” Scheer said. “This was a chance for me to get a lot of new information about lighting and working with a theater. That’s so important.”
Long after “stringmachine” leaves the space of The Cherry Art gallery, Scheer is looking forward to continuing to work on this piece of art and seeing it evolve and grow over time.
“I learn from each new space I try it in,” Scheer said. “I really wanted the chance to rethink that installation, take some pieces and learn from it. This was the better version […] I felt like it was closer to what I’d originally hoped I would be making.”