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Shinique Smith’s ‘Project Atrium’ takes flight

Shinique Smith’s ‘Project Atrium’ takes flight

March 15, 2016 // by Denise M. Reagan

Shinique Smith's signature bundles of tied clothing twirl and perform like dancers in the forty-foot-high Atrium Gallery. This week, an aerialist will join the meteoric objects, inspired by Smith's gestural work in the installation.

During the March 18 members' preview of Smith's Project Atrium installation Quickening, Tempestt Halstead of Bittersweet Studios will activate the work with a performance on suspended aerialist silks against a backdrop of painted calligraphy, collaged panels, and mirrored surface.

Only members may attend the performance, but it's not too late to join MOCA Jacksonville and witness this rare event.

Tempestt Halstead Bittersweet Studios Aerialist b
“I will be a living art form,” Tempestt Halstead says of her performance in connection with Shinique Smith's Project Atrium installation Quickening. Image courtesy of Alloy Images at Bittersweet Studios.

This site-specific performance explores the body as an extension of Smith's creative process. Smith has created dance performances for previous exhibitions, such as Gesture I: Unraveling and Gesture II: Between Two Breaths, choreographed in collaboration with Marisa Arriaga for Shinique Smith: BRIGHT MATTER at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Gesture III: One Great Turning was performed by KAIROS Dance Theater in front of Smith's mural Seven Moon Junction at Boston's Dewey Square Park on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Smith said the music and the performance for Quickening will feel abstract but rhythmic. The intersection of material, motion, and reflection creates a thought-provoking visualization about personal identity and individual style.

Halstead said she's collaborated with theater producers and musicians in the past, but this is the first time she's represented another artist's vision.

“I thought, 'How do I take my art form and communicate her art form?'” Halstead said. “I think I'm really going to be able to represent her art the way she sees it.”

She said most of her performances are at heights between twenty and forty feet, depending on the venue. Forty-five feet is the highest point she's ever been on silks, so the Atrium Gallery doesn't worry her.

“I've trained for so many years it's become second nature.” 

Tempestt Halstead Bittersweet Studios Aerialist c
Tempestt Halstead describes the music Shinique Smith provided as very balletic and pleasing. “It goes so well with the strong beautiful lines that a dancer would have.” Image courtesy of Alloy Images at Bittersweet Studios.

Halstead said she will perform movements that represent the music Smith provided, which she described as very balletic and pleasing.

“It goes so well with the strong beautiful lines that a dancer would have,” she said. “I think ballet and a breath of fresh air-beautiful movement.”

She's keeping her costume a surprise for that evening. When she showed it to the artist, Smith agreed it was perfect for the performance.

“I will be a living art form,” Halstead said.

As she was finishing her degree in theater stage management, Halstead took a friend's advice to pursue circus arts. She trained at multiple aerial and circus schools, including Orlando Aerial Arts and Orlando Circus School. Her main disciplines are aerial silks and lyra, or aerial hoop. She is an aerial instructor at Bittersweet Studios and performs with the studio's troupe Relevé Aerial Dance and Circus Team. She has performed in Canada, Europe, and South America.

“I started performing, and I fell in love immediately. It's such a release,” Halstead said. “I let it kind of sweep me off my feet. I love to perform in silks. It's the best feeling in the world.”

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