Illuminated site-based installation coming in November
You’ve been warned: More than 100 (illuminated) mushrooms will take over an area of Hampton Park in Charleston from Nov. 5 through Dec. 11.
This art display relaunches Art in the Park, a public art initiative organized by the nonprofit Charleston Parks Conservancy.
North Carolina artist Meredith Connelly, who encases lighting in industrial materials to reveal their organic qualities, has created more than 100 hand-sculpted illuminated mushrooms using a heavy-duty thermoplastic. The installation components range in height from 8 to 12 inches and will be integrated into the natural setting of the popular Charleston park resulting in an immersive and interactive experience for all ages.
Several of Connelly’s past installations have welcomed more than 250,000 visitors, and her work has been shown at various museums and venues throughout the Southeast. Connelly is excited to bring her work to the Charleston community, she said.
Connelly has been conceptually exploring fungal formations for the past three years and has used light as a material for over a decade. As part of her creative process, she hikes and “photographically forages” for inspiration, she explained. She then examines the diverse blooms, colors, and spaces that fungal specimens inhabit.
“Neither plant nor animal, fungus has incredible and dynamic characteristics. The function and role of mushrooms across the globe are incomparable,” Connelly said. “They are an interconnected network, and research shows they communicate using electrical impulses through their mycelium, much like neurotransmitters within the human mind. They have the capability to heal the environment, the body, and activate dormant areas of the brain.”
“We’re thrilled to relaunch our Art in the Parks program with this incredible piece by Meredith Connelly,” said Natalie Jones, director of programs for the Charleston Parks Conservancy. “Meredith’s nature-inspired art ties so well into our organization’s dedication to building stunning public spaces and encouraging people to connect to their parks.”
The Conservancy has organized other public art installations in city parks, but the Art in the Park program has been on hiatus since the pandemic. For more than 15 years, the Conservancy — through public-private partnerships — has had a hand in renovating and beautifying more than 20 parks in the City of Charleston.
“Mushrooms is a temporary installation that will be configured and installed directly on the grounds of the park. Through this process, I fall into collaboration with nature, light, and the environment, and a visual conversation is formed,” Connelly said. “I use placement and cast light from the installation components to create focal points or highlight the architectural elements in the natural setting, and those elements then relate back to the work and the viewer.
“I love bringing the forms back to the spaces that inspired them, and to me, it then feels complete; similar to a life cycle,” she added. “At the core, my work is about connectivity. The light connects the viewers, the natural environment, and the installation components in a way that molds and drives an authentic and approachable experience.”
When Connelly is not installing glowing forms outdoors, she also creates hand-cut paper works reflective of the microscopic world and presses them in transparent materials that parallel microscope slides.
The artwork will be installed in Hampton Park, 30 May Murray Drive, near the Rose Pavilion and on display through Dec. 11.
As part of the Art in the Park program, the Conservancy is hosting a hands-on art workshop on lantern making at 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the Rose Pavilion in Hampton Park. For registration details, visit charlestonparksconservancy.org.
This project was funded in part by the City of Charleston Office of Cultural Affairs and the City of North Charleston Cultural Arts Program through their joint administration of the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant Program and the South Carolina Arts Commission which receives support from the National Endowment for the Art and the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.
Learn more about the Conservancy and other upcoming programs at charlestonparksconservancy.org.