The Totality of Time Lusters the Dusk’s story is one of parallels and ironies, ultimately bound by the fate that we as humans have created for ourselves—or perhaps, it’s the fate into which we were born. However you look at it, Lauren Fensterstock’s latest body of work ventures into the deepest spaces of our internal and social psyche to facilitate such conversations during a critical point in time. The installation is the first in a new series from Fensterstock, examining the ecological relationship between us and the world around us.
2021 set a significant number of records—and not the kind you see in the Olympics. From being the “warmest year on record in 25 countries” to seeing extreme weather in severe heatwaves, wildfires, and rainfall events as a result of the “warmest northern-hemisphere summer on record,” last year continued the downward spiral in our current climate landscape. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still in motion, things are certainly feeling “Book of Revelations-esque.” Concerns about the end of the world and the fate of the human race are nothing new in any space inviting commentary. From environmentally conscious artists like Betty Beaumont (Ocean Landmark, 1978-1980) and Cai Guo Qiang (The Ninth Wave, 2014) to infamous scare tactic literature (The Population Bomb, 1968) and doom-fueling films (2012, 2009), the distressing topic has not changed while the natural world continues to at an irreversible rate.
Taking influence from the sixteenth-century German manuscript, The Book of Miracles, Fensterstock’s The Totality of Time emulates the extraordinary images illustrated in the manuscript in a more engrossing and intimidating way. Using her background in metalsmithing, Fensterstock cleverly brings to life the wonders and worries detailed in The Book of Miracles while intertwining and conveying today’s events, hopes, and fears through the use of natural resources. It’s her incorporation of mosaic techniques and Earth elements (e.g., obsidian, hematite, Swarovski crystal, quartz) that make The Totality of Time all the more powerful.
At a physical and visual level, Fensterstock relays the message of both the beauty in the Earth’s natural resources and the inevitable destruction that comes along with it as a result of humans’ very existence. At a literal level, one could even interpret this message with Fensterstock’s method of manipulating the original forms of such resources to create an artificial art piece—albeit not without purpose. Symbolically, the installation embodies several parallels.
Creation & Destruction
Beauty & Pain
Dark & Light
Regrets & Redemption
It’s in the dark gleam of The Totality of Time Lusters the Dusk that viewers can explore these hard truths and decided fates. Because in that dark gleam, we see our reflection. We see our hopes and aspirations, questions and anxieties, the potential for impact, and ultimate mortality. When we look to the sky and stars, we see our past, present, and future. Let’s make sure we can continue to look forward into the luster of dusk.
The Totality of Time Lusters the Dusk is on display at the Chrysler Museum of Art until July 17, 2022.
Images courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Claire Oliver Gallery
Photos by Ron Blunt and Albert Ting
Jasmine Rodriguez is a culture and music enthusiast based out of Virginia. When she's not writing for music blogs, you can find her working on her latest themed playlists, scouring for more new music, and taking pictures of her friends and life around her.