The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is proud to present a solo exhibition by Jennifer Wen Ma. Cry Joy Park—Gardens of Dark and Light investigates the history and social landscape of Charleston, a cultural capital of the American South, and an exemplar of its complex opulence and beauty. The exhibition creates an immersive, multi-sensory experience that explores the juxtaposition of utopia and dystopia.
Upon entering the Halsey’s galleries, one steps into the enveloping tangles of an oversized black garden, employing Ma’s signature honeycomb paper structures and cultivated chaos. Crawling vines and giant leaves and fruits are complimented by motion-sensored elements that retreat when approached by the visitor. Ink-on-glass landscape paintings further the illusory landscape created by the gardens and places the viewer’s reflection within this constructed paradise. One must then push through a flower portal reminiscent of a botanical birth canal, emerging from darkness into the garden of light. Dark impenetrability gives way to shocking brightness, and comforting ambiguity is replaced with glaring clarity. Mirroring the responsive intelligence of the dark garden, portions of this cut-paper foliage move to greet visitors in extraverted display.
A vital component of this exhibition is a series of community dinners featuring performances and guided conversations on specific themes related to the exhibition such as spirituality, food security, land politics, re-entry into society following incarceration, and education. The contrasting gardens of light and dark will also be a visual platform for interdisciplinary performances in the form of dancing, singing, drumming, storytelling, poetry and other kinds of theatrical exchange in collaboration with the College of Charleston faculty and students.
Cry Joy Park—Gardens of Dark and Light continues at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art (161 Calhoun Street, Charleston, South Carolina) through July 7.
For more information, visit halsey.edu/cry-joy-park.