(Most of this was my impression as I walked through the exhibit-- forgive any confusing construction. Also, be warned, spoilers ahead.)
I saw this really interesting bit of art in Lincoln. It was two pieces of a four piece story called Autumn and Winter, part of Four Seasons by several local artists. Apparently Spring and Summer are the story of a girl as she is born, grows up, and gets married. Then Autumn comes. Her husband has left and the oak tree which symbolizes their relationship is dead. There is a scene set out and you look at it while radios around set turn on and tell the story. Each corner represents a room in state of disarray with trees growing through them. Leaves are scattered over the ground and cardboard trees grow up through the furniture. A large old car is the center piece. The story told is one of an estranged man and wife and how they have fallen apart. Mr. Penn is a world renown pianist and she is the wife he leaves at home. The card board trees were covered in sheet music.It was the sort of thing to see with someone. I wished you were here.
Winter is next-- a walk trough display with headphones triggered by the first doorway. The first room is a hospital room with eye test charts that tells of an old woman found all at frozen in a park. Fake snow is scattered through the room. Through the doorway, I see a Christmas room, a tree and a table set for two. Also, the instruction say wait but now I'm bored. The head phones just have breathing and winter wind noises.
Next room-- decorated for Christmas with snow everywhere. Fabric chains match that of curtains from the hospital room. Music everywhere. Sheets, fabrics, piano, baby piano. A record player and White Christmas record. A tree decorated with tin foil balls, blue lights, santas, jingle bells, a homemade angel. On the headphones, we here the woman, driven to distraction by a tv news piece about her ex husband. A barometer on the wall is broken. She remembers a Christmas with him, where the day began so perfect and happy but then he abandoned her to write a song. Piano music plays you to the next room as she talks.
The next room represents a park. Benches, astro turf, lightposts. There is picnic on the snowbank and a news stand: man on southbank still playing piano.
The next room is dim, white tulle every where. Four snowshoes with paper cities sit on glowing pedestals.
In each city, a paper penguin plays a piano. Paris. New York. London. Rome. Paper Angels also stand by a christmas tree-- sadly. They are also in the Christmas room. A paper penguin with a paper piano is also on each city-- just like a little penguin decoration from the Christmas room. She tells of finding solace in making and selling snow globes.
Next is a music room. Stands with coffee-stained, marked up music, on pedestals. And in the middle is a small scene-- a piano in a snow bank, broken and filled with snow. Broken instruments litter the ground around. We hear her story, how why she went into the snow in her night gown.
Now a forest made from blue plastic on the walls. Four pedestals hold crafty bits frozen in plastic. Buttons, tape measurers, stamps, and bits. Further in the room is a hospital bed in a stand of pines sparkling with fairy lights. White lilies are on her hospital table and a small radio. A card-- it's the song he began on the Christmas he left. "Finally finished" reads the handwriting. There is a red ball on the bed. And the radio forecasts an early spring.
Spring and summer were good but not at poignant as Autumn and Winter. Sprig is a young girl's garden, embellished with childish fantasies. The bees get together and sing while the mushy peas swap endearments and the stone gnomes argue matrimonially. A pet cemetery is cheerfully dour. Polly's play house has dolls' furniture set up exactly like Autumn and the shed leading to the garden has a tiny version of the hospital room from Winter. Phones and headphones narrate as Polly, the owner, calls radio stations and her neighbors to chat about gardening. One old man, Mr. Penn, apparently plays a sad song in the winter to "remind someone special that she isn't forgotten." it's the song from Winter.
Summer is the most abstract. An iron bedstead is in one corner (like the one from autumn) with a tree of red balls on it. We hear a dream-story: a woman woke up in her iron bed and reached for the little baby at the foot of the bed. She took the baby and began to walk through the woods and before long, the little girl was walking, then running along side her mother. She spotted a red ball and raced after it; as the mother lost site of the little girl, she panicked. She came out of the woods and saw a beach-- a young couple strode along hand and hand in the waves. The lady walks to the edge of the sea and weeps for her lost little girl. Before long, the sun is setting and years have past. The daughter walks to her mother, a vibrant young woman, and the mother realizes she has gray in her own hair. Hand in hand, they walk back through the forest and the daughter helps her mother into the bed and the old woman falls asleep. We heard this same story on the radio in Autumn and Polly chased a red ball through her garden and found a hiding place in her hedges, which is the passage to Summer. The Summer room next has you talk to a fortune teller (via headphones) and hear Pollu (now a young woman) talk about a trip to the beach with her beau where she saw a precious little girl running around an a sad sad old lady on the beach. All he saw were the waves and he heard their song. The next corner is the Christmas scene from Winter-- tree with tinfoil decorations and a large old radio that plays Polly's narration of the Christmas he forgot her for the piano. The piano is in the next corner, surrounded by music stands and scores flying away into the ocean. The last stop of summer is back to the fortune teller, then on to trail lined by tree stumps and littered with leaves...
I wouldn't go into so much detail but this isn't something you can pop down to see in the Dallas Museum of Art. It was crafted for and in Lincoln and already left the Drill Hall. The story is sweet, poignant, and sad. It's all a cycle though and element like the red ball and the Christmas son weave in and out of the separate rooms. It's a bit of a dream, a hint of fairy tale, and wholly mesmerizing.