Behind the Scenes: Dublin Arts Council’s ‘Subrural’ explores an evolving American experience

By Columbus Alive
From the May 2, 2013 edition

Ever take a drive in Ohio? Yeah. You will appreciate this new Dublin Arts Council exhibit. “Subrural” is an immersive multi-media installation that addresses the symbiotic relationship between our country’s urban and rural environments.

I am a half-breed, one part country girl, two parts city lover. I grew up on a dairy farm and have watched, literally, the “city” encroach deeper and deeper into soybean territory. I’ve witnessed generations-old family farms be gobbled up (and bought out for big bucks) by companies looking to build things like cellphone towers and Hobby Lobbys. I try not to get too sentimental about it. That’s just the way things are; there’s less and less of a visual distinction between city and country.

“Subrural” is comforting in its subtle visual cues to this ever-evolving experience. The installation is hung from the ceiling. I like this artistic decision, made by the trio of visual artists behind it. “Subrural” reminds me of how, when you drive outside of I-270 after having been in it for a while, you recognize where you are but things feel a little turned upside down. It takes a second to adjust.

In the installation, metal silhouettes of electric towers hang, connected by wire that looks like power lines. On them are “vines” made of a dust ball of things — I made out wings that also looked like maple seeds and strips of what looked like graffiti — crafted from polymer plastic, screen and paper. Sometimes the vines look like they are hanging on for dear life as the technology encompasses their space, other times, the vines clearly dominate.

The exhibit’s artists did a lot of research for this work like filming a corn harvest. But “Subrural” feels extra genuine because urban vs. rural vs. everything in between has played itself out in their own lives. Karen Snouffer is currently a Gambier resident (she teaches at Kenyon College) but longtime Cleveland ex-pat. And Jenn Figg and Matthew McCormack live in bustling Baltimore (both work for universities there) but regularly travel by road through the States to set up installations.

Whatever your geographical story, you’ll likely also feel like the setting of “Subrural” is in your own backyard, just out of sight.