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Lorrie Fredette's plague of intricate beauty

March 16, 2017 // by Denise M. Reagan

When considering artistic inspiration, few would think of a disease that ravaged millions and decimated the world populations. That is exactly what Lorrie Fredette used as the inspiration for the exhibition Iterations, a site-specific installation of The Great Silence, now in its third presentation at the University of North Florida Gallery at MOCA Jacksonville. Fredette's three-dimensional exploration of art and science will be on view from April 8 through September 10.

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Portrait of the artist lying under The Great Silence.

More than 2,000 smooth muslin-and-wax covered pods are the result of countless hours of labor, each one a unique object handcrafted by the artist. Together, they create a large-scale sculpture inspired by the smallpox virus w-ith a unique configuration. At more than twenty-nine feet long and just over five feet wide, the artwork is an undulating, floating canopy; it will be attached directly to the ceiling and suspended approximately eight and a half feet above the gallery floor. Thus, the installation's title, The Great Silence, is Fredette's interpretation of the virus and its history.

“The pod-like elements are connected [to the smallpox virus] via a twofold visual suggestion,” explained Fredette. “The first is a loose portrayal of the virus shape as seen under the microscope. The second … is the physical appearance of the disease on the human body. A rash breaks out on the skin turning into sores [that] can become pustules.”

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Lorrie Fredette, The Great Silence (detail), 2011. Beeswax, tree resin, muslin, brass, steel, nylon line, 6 feet 2 inches x 36 feet 9 inches x 5 feet 8 inches; suspended 8 feet 6 inches above the floor. Courtesy of the artist.

Fredette became interested in the history of smallpox, a disease first brought to Cape Cod by European settlers between 1614 and 1617. Eventually, it annihilated 75 percent of the native population. “With smallpox as my host, I set out to uncover the story around this epidemic and the altered memories associated with it through the years of retelling the story," she explained to Artscope Magazine in 2011. In Iterations, each pod signifies both individual memory and collective memory.

“Nature has a way of showing us its power when we make ourselves still enough to appreciate its systems, structures, and ultimately, its ability to teach us how to live more in harmony with it, even as we seek to move ahead as a species,” said Sheila Goloborotko, exhibition curator and assistant professor of printmaking in UNF's Art and Design Department.

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Lorrie Fredette, Complex Interplay, 2014. Beeswax, tree resin, muslin, brass, nylon line, 14 feet x 9 feet 8 inches x 34 feet 6 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
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Lorrie Fredette, Situational Variables, 2016. Beeswax, tree resin, muslin, brass, nylon line, graphite, 11 feet 4 inches x 35 feet 8 inches x 29 feet 3 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
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Lorrie Fredette, Situational Variables (detail), 2016. Beeswax, tree resin, muslin, brass, nylon line, graphite, 11 feet 4 inches x 35 feet 8 inches x 29 feet 3 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Fredette's work inspires contemplation of the forces of nature beyond our control. Both translucent and opaque, these luminous pods hover in midair between two worlds: art and science.

Fredette lives and works in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York. She has long been inspired by medical science and microscopic imagery, which she expresses across a variety of different mediums. Iterations marks her third unique expression of The Great Silence, and the installation at MOCA Jacksonville, a cultural institute of UNF, will be the most significant manifestation of the series to date.

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Lorrie Fredette, The Great Silence, 2011. Beeswax, tree resin, muslin, brass, steel, nylon line, 6 feet 2 inches x 36 feet 9 inches x 5 feet 8 inches; suspended 8 feet 6 inches above the floor. Courtesy of the artist.

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