While Youth Lagoon’s “Afternoon” plays softly on a nearby speaker, a video projector emits the only light in the gallery. Small pieces of paper hanging from the ceiling cast shadows on the wall, and a ladder and boxes of installation material clutter the floor.
It’s Wednesday night in downtown Lincoln, and above the constant thumping from Duffy’s Tavern, Jamie Danielle Hardy is working tirelessly to finish setting up an art installation upstairs in the Tugboat Gallery before her opening on First Friday.
Hardy’s installation, along with a collection of oil paintings from local artist Shereen Zangeneh, are a part of their Tugboat debut, “Devour & Purge,” which opened on Friday.
“On my 28th birthday, someone told me about Saturn Return theory, and I just started thinking about it,” Hardy said. “It says that around your 28th year, you go through a transition of some kind or a solidification of practice in your life. In Greek mythology, there’s this story where Saturn eats his children so they won’t take over the throne. So it’s kind of like youth versus age battling against each other.”
Hardy’s piece, entitled “28,” includes a video projection featuring 30-second clips of the leftovers of 28 meals. Small squares of napkins from the meals hang from the ceiling in front of the projection.
“The piece came out of that knowledge of Saturn Return and this sort of expectancy, because I didn’t feel like I was going through any changes, like, am I going to miss it?” Hardy said. “So I just started the practice of filming these meals. I’m turning 29 this month, and looking back I feel like it has been a good changing year. I went on a road trip to visit my family on the coast, and it made me realize I want to stay in Omaha. I was feeling really disconnected with them, but now I feel complete again and able to choose my life, in a way.”
Sound captured from Hardy’s friend’s apartment in Austin during her road trip will also play in the installation, layered with the background noise of her “devoured” meal video clips.
Hardy, who graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking, began creating these installations because of her attraction to the way light interacts with paper. She said she attributes her interest in installation art to her background in sculpture,
“I like the practice of creating something that reacts to the space,” Hardy said. “I’ve installed this piece in a different space in Omaha before, and it has looked very different. You have to be flexible with installations, definitely.”
In the next room is Zangeneh’s collection of colorful, sometimes grotesque oil paintings of figures with a common “purging” theme.
“The inspiration behind the purge pieces was laying to rest my past and moving forward to my future,” Zangeneh said. “Turning a new page, expelling the old materials to make room for the new. I have gone through a lot of life changes in my current stage, so doing something cathartic like purging seemed appropriate.”
The Lincoln artist recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a Bachelor of Arts in fine arts.
“Consumption is sacred to me,” Zangeneh said. “What you consume is what you will purge. Honestly, it’s the investigation of a deep purge I am going through, which is why the figures are in motion. I am literally still picking through it.”
Zangeneh describes her process as a layered technique.
“I love working with my hands; I love touch,” she said. “My goal with these paintings was to create a painting that was a drawing. I’m a process nerd, I love the challenge, and I felt that due to the large scale of my work people are allowed a glimpse of how I work. Looking closely, you can dissect the work enough to come to an understanding of how it’s made.”
Hardy and Zangeneh, who didn’t know each other before the show, created their pieces separately. However, the two said it’s hard to believe how much their work has in common, both in theme and even color scheme.
“There are so many parallels between us and the work, we even share the same birthday,” Zangeneh said.
Hardy said she just hopes people walk away from the show feeling moved in some way.
“I try not to rely on the personal side of my work,” Hardy said. “It’s all very ephemeral, in a way. I want them to be struck with the beauty — that’s my goal, I just want to make something beautiful.”
The Saturn Return phenomenon holds that these life changes happen every time Saturn returns to the same point in the sky that it was at a person’s birth, so Hardy should expect another revelation in the next 28 years.
“I just hope I make it there,” Hardy laughed. “I’ll probably still be installing this piece.”