There’s a whole other world in the Consortium Library ARC Gallery. With snakes of black paint on the walls and fish hanging from the ceiling, Hugi-Lewis Gallery owner Margret Hugi-Lewis’ show, “Utopian Dreams,” feels like another universe.
“I wanted to create, with this installation, a Utopian world,” Lewis said, “a world that doesn’t exist.”
The idea of a Utopian society began with writer Thomas More’s novel, “Utopia.” The literal translation of “Utopia” is “no place.”
Born in Switzerland and trained at the Basel School of Art, Lewis was invited by the co-inventor of Dadaism, Marcel Janco, to the Ein Hod Artists’ Colony in Israel. She moved to Alaska in 1984 and still goes back to Israel and Switzerland visit.
Lewis, who is also a theatrical stage designer, created the installation specifically for the art gallery. Because she saw that the gallery had an entrance and an exit right next to each other, she envisioned the room as a stage.
“When I do a set for the theater I’m very limited because I have to please the director … and actors,” Lewis said. “Here, I was totally free. It was really a very unusual thing.”
With this freedom, Lewis took a Dadaist approach. Dadaism is an art movement that began in Lewis’ native Switzerland in 1916. It throws logic and reality to the wayside, instead embracing the nonsensical and surreal.
With this in mind, Lewis wants to leave all interpretation up to the viewer.
“I was thinking about students. When they are (in school), it’s a lot of reality and learning and making sense,” Lewis said. “With my installation, I wanted to do the opposite. … It doesn’t really make sense other than it’s a little magic.”
The surreality of “Utopian Dreams” dawned immediately on Japanese language program senior Heather Teal.
“It’s wild,” Teal said. “(It’s like) someone decided to turn the world upside down.”
From quadriplegic mannequin torsos to a hatching flamingo, “Utopian Dreams” is a diverse display of artistic vision and imagination. Despite its mainly two-color palette, Teal believes the installation spans a larger spectrum than that.
“There’s a lot of black and white,” Teal said. “But the depth actually creates a lot of color.”
More than anything, the utter strangeness of the display is what sticks with the viewer. It’s a universe that’s well worth stepping into.