Shanquan and the spirit of the Elephant

A view of a museum wall; a framed photograph is closest to the camera, the rectangle of a digital projector hovers in the middle, and at the far end hangs a painting whose dominant color is red.
One of Arthur Ou’s hand-tinted photographs hangs in the foreground, while further down the wall, past a video projection, hangs Beatrice Modisett’s boldly colored painting.

Focus on a thing you see in one of the works. This thing might be a mass-produced object that the artists has put to new use, or an image, or a color. It should be something that originated outside the artist’s studio. Write a history of this thing: where was it before it arrived in this gallery? Who besides the artist has had contact with it?

The spirit of the sleeping Elephant. Tucked away in a corner surrounded by vivid memories of green, red, and blue, the spirit of the Elephant rests! The spirit of the Elephant is far older than the expansive memory of color that surrounds it; the spirit of the Elephant is immortal. The spirit of the Elephant has watches its memories change and has forgotten many but the constant is the physical body of Elephant. It has never moved from his bed but he has seen the universe and will outlive these liquid memories.

Putting works in the same gallery creates a conversation between them. Choose two works and write about the exchange of ideas, forms, and meanings that the juxtaposition of them creates.

The sleeping Elephant in Arthur Ou’s tint has seen the destruction that awaits if this vessel in Beatrice Modisett’s Every Ninth Wave II decides to venture into this wormhole. The wormhole or volcano appears to be an illusion and might not be as bad as it appears because blue, clear spaces are evident around the disturbance.

What’s a lesson that one work could learn from another?

Beatrice’s Every Ninth Wave II could learn from Arthur’s Pt Reyes tint to not to make too much out of situations. Avoid what you can, cut your losses and always get rest regardless of what is happening around you.

—Shanquan on Beatrice Beatrice Modisett’s Every Ninth Wave II and Arthur Ou’s “Pt. Reyes” series

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