On this misty Saturday evening, a small crowd of about thirty on-lookers had gathered for the ballet. Promptly at 7:00, Odetta gallery director Ellen Hackl Fagan introduced the concept behind the ballet and invited guests to linger afterwards and admire Ramsey’s work.
Quickly, three dancers — Kara Chan, Tiffany Mangulabman, and Isabella Szylinska —appeared from the far back of the gallery. Dressed in simple gray and black outfits, they presented a monochromatic contrast to Ramsey’s color palette.
Though each performed quick solo movements, the three dancers intertwined and interacted with one another throughout most of the brief performance. Alternating between elongation and contraction, their bodies took on the shapes that Ramsey had constructed, the lines in the choreography echoing the folds in the painted strips of ribbon that tumble, unfurl, and fall through space.
Speaking after the ballet, Norte Maar director Jason Andrew explained more about the relationship between Ramsey and Gleich. The two artists exchanged images and notes throughout the process, and Gleich choreographed the ballet to suit Ramsey’s existing body of work and artistic sensibilities. Andrew also described Ramsey’s color sensibility as neither opaque nor subdued. In fact, her choices are highly technical and digital.
As Ramsey described it, she selected her colors systematically, rather than impressionistically, undertaking her process with precision and intent. It was clear that she viewed the installation in concrete, not emotional, terms. The tagline on her business card reads, “an idiosyncratic engagement with rule-based systems to make art.”
Ramsey began by returning to the same hiking trail over the four seasons. She took 18 photos on each hike, one photo for every 100 steps. After a year, she compiled the photos and chose one color from each photograph—either the most unique color, or the most ubiquitous.
Ramsey ran those selected colors through a translation program that outputs a paint formula. Once she had the color metrics, she began to paint her ribbons and arrange them in order of the seasons. Accordingly, from left to right in the gallery, the blocks are arranged as spring, summer, fall, and winter.
When asked why she chose to elevate summer in the vertical ribbon column, rather than leave it on the low level like the other seasons, Ramsey said it was purely a design choice to add visual interest. While viewers might be tempted to think of summer as ascendant or supreme, it seems Ramsey does not place such value judgments.
Ramsey’s process is certainly unusual and intriguing. But, since her technical process was obscured from the viewer, the intention and painstaking detail in the piece was lost in translation. The ballet did illuminate the physical attributes of “Hue[s]pace,” but it was unable to convey her rigid methodology.
In that sense, the dancers lifted up the visual art, bringing movement and life into an otherwise calculated endeavor. Similarly, Ramsey’s precision fits with ballet’s control of the body and emphasis on clean lines. This joint presentation masked the particularities of each discipline, lending grace and an appearance of effortlessness to both works. [check out a video here!]