Artists have long been preoccupied with the sky; through depictions of the atmosphere, they elicit new understandings of corporeality and transcendence. The Poetics of Atmosphere: Lorna Simpson’s Cloudscape and Other Works from the Collection presents Lorna Simpson’s video Cloudscape (2004) in dialogue with selected works from the Colby Museum’s permanent collection that reference weightlessness and presence through meteorological imagery.
Simpson’s work examines how identity, specifically Black identity, is formed, perceived, and experienced. Cloudscape features a singular figure, the artist Terry Adkins, whistling as he is slowly engulfed in clouds. His seeming ability to fade—to appear ethereal, even to disappear—evokes the ways that race and gender inform a person’s capacity, or lack thereof, to determine their desired level of public visibility.
The exhibition places Cloudscape in dialogue with other selected works from the Colby Museum’s permanent collection. The accompanying artworks, including Sall Egbert’s Perfumes (2010) and Alexander Calder’s Untitled (1946), allude to atmospheric conditions while reflecting on weight and presence, challenging the ways viewers relate to their surroundings.