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The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Treespell: An immersive, breathtaking art display inspired by the Greek myth of Artemis.

Magnolia Westfall / Hilltop Views
A snapshot of “Dancing with Trees” featuring one of the dancers from the dance group BLiPSWiTCH and a forest nymph whose eyes would blink on the screen.

Women and Their Work’s art gallery invites the Austin community to experience “Treespell” by Elizabeth Chapin. Running until March 7, this gallery exhibit tells the immersive Greek myth of Artemis through sculptures, projections and paintings. 

When you walk into the space you are immersed directly into the scene of Artemis hunting Actaeon, beginning with large curtains painted with colorful trees surrounding the showcase. The work in the gallery reflects the Greek myth in an astounding display of projections onto cloth-sewn sculptures. You see Artemis as she stands naked, holding her bow and arrow. In the middle of the room are reflective pool-shaped objects on casters. The sewn stag is across the room from the goddess with arrows protruding out of it. In the stag’s eyes are two screens on either side displaying over 400 different male eyes including Donald Trump,Kanye West and James Baldwin.

“The Stag” by Elizabeth Chapin with a screen displaying one of the 400 eyes that would switch your gaze to the other eyes cohesively. (Magnolia Westfall / Hilltop Views)

In the Greek myth, a hunter secretly gazed upon Artemis as she bathed, violating her privacy. In return, Artemis punished him by turning him into a stag and shooting him with arrows. His own hunting dogs were unable to recognize that the deer was Actaeon, and thus they chased him and ultimately tore him apart. 

The quick and harsh reaction from Artemis reflects Chapin’s complicated feelings toward being looked at as an artist who works with visuals. Chapin views Artemis as a “gaze-destroyer” and she resonated with the story because she herself feels constantly gazed upon.

“I am exhausted with self-expression,” Chapin said. “My own, especially.”  

Essentially, Chapin believes that people are a part of nature, spirituality, and interconnected with each other and nature without separation. Based on this view, when we look at something, we mistakenly think we are separate from it. The exhibit is an eclectic commentary on viewership and how we as humans view art and the world. 

On March 2, the exhibit hosted “Dancing with Trees,” a prolonged dance journey inspired by Chapin’s “Treespell.” Dancers united with the world of the exhibit, adding to the discussion about how looking at things can change them. They used their bodies to become a live record of this conversation. 

“I feel like the trees and Artemis are these paintings that become lumpy bodies that come off the wall into space,” Chapin said. “So, to me, it makes sense to add moving bodies to that.” 

Chapin is an Austin-based artist who started out with mostly portraiture and working with three-dimensionals around 2018. This exhibit took her over two years to complete, and this is the first time it is being displayed. 

“I wanted to do a forest and I started seeing the myth as a fable of humanity, and our approaching divinity, sacredness and nature as something we can exploit and gaze upon,” Chapin said. 

Women and Their Work is a nonprofit organization that hosts exactly what the name implies. The next exhibition is called Circular Form by Alejandra Amuelle, and it runs from March 23 to May 9.

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