Nothing sweeter: Luisa Caldwell finds art in candy wrappers

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Opening Reception: Luisa Caldwell’s Curtain Call and Folly

Hancher Lobby — Thursday, April 4 at 4 p.m.

American Ballet Theatre Presents: Whipped Cream

Hancher Auditorium — Saturday, April 6 at 1 & 6:30 p.m.

Luisa Caldwell installs her pieces in the Hancher lobby. Wednesday, April 5, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

On Saturday, April 6, Hancher Auditorium will be hosting the American Ballet Theatre’s travelling production Whipped Cream (tickets $20-90), a delirious, imaginative, ensemble-heavy celebration of whimsy and sugar. Ahead of the festivities, artist and UI alumna Luisa Caldwell will be opening an installation at Hancher Auditorium inspired by Whipped Cream and Hancher itself.

Composed of two separate pieces, Curtain Call and Folly, Caldwell’s installation showcases the intricacies of movement, composition and highly textured sculpture in three-dimensional space. Her work for this installation was largely done using candy wrappers, collected with the help of friends, family and city street litter.

“I can’t pinpoint the exact time they turned into an art material for me.” Caldwell said in an email conversation. “I know it has something to do with the tiny patterning and imagery that is found on some.”

UI alum Luisa Caldwell’s installed two pieces, ‘Curtain Call’ and ‘Folly,’ to accompany the American Ballet Theatre’s performances of ‘Whipped Cream.’ — Zak Neumann/Little Village

“Also,” she continued, “to keep a wrapper from a candy, say you ate in Paris, becomes a kind of memento. I like how common they are and how, at least in urban settings … I am de-littering the world one found wrapper at a time and elevating this detritus, tiny trash to art status.”

Bringing together a behemoth of what she calls “unique beauties,” the Curtain Call installation consists of about 7000 wrappers. The way they are tied together, or interact with adjacent strands, creates a greater, more complex picture than any one on its own could.

Thousands of candy wrappers form the detailed pieces of Luisa Caldwell’s work. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

“The piece at the cafe level of Hancher [Folly] is 13 feet tall by about 25 feet long. It is quantity, the sheer amount of candy wrappers as material needed, that makes an impression … What I do love about hanging these pieces for Whipped Cream, a ballet, is I have always described the tied wrappers as they move as ‘dancing around,’ which they do, with the slightest breeze or waft of air.”

Much like the balance between dancers in a movement or ballet suite, the greater mood is pulled from the harmony between its pieces.

“I’ve witnessed people walking by, not paying attention — and being startled by the unexpected movement as the wrappers begin to ‘dance’… startle then turns to delight.”

Luisa Caldwell’s work will be on display at Hancher through April 6. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Inspired by Hancher Auditorium and Whipped Cream, Curtain Call is a snapshot of Caldwell’s interpretation of the space, the ballet and the University of Iowa experience. Caldwell received both her BFA and MA from the University of Iowa, and her time here continues to leave an impression on her work.

“I’ve been following #uiowaart on Instagram and am seeing quality, of the moment, really interesting work being made by students. I think having a state-of-the-art facility helps, and the international faculty and student body is important, as well as a steady stream of visiting artists stopping by; but I hope a museum is on its way, because the U of Iowa collection is impressive, and as a student I was fortunate to have access to it, and often.”

Luisa Caldwell installs her pieces in the Hancher lobby. Wednesday, April 5, 2019. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

The University of Iowa’s Stanley Museum of Art was established in 1969 and housed a number of priceless, beloved pieces. However, after the June 2008 flood, the building was permanently closed.

While students may still see UI-owned pieces on display in the Iowa Memorial Union or in art museums across the country, having a central, accessible home for the university’s collection greatly increases the exposure to the community.


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“Being able to contemplate in person famous works by Pollock, Beckman or Reinhardt, or the extensive African art collection, was so important to my formation as an artist. Not only did the collection inspire, it taught me how to see.”

Caldwell’s installation will be featured in the lobby of Hancher Auditorium April 4-6, encompassing Whipped Cream’s two-show Iowa City run. A reception for her exhibits will take place April 4, from 4-7 p.m.

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