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Art, for Pamela Pike Gordinier, is as much about posing questions as finding answers.
The Stonington artist says that ultimately, her multi-media exhibit at the Alexey von Schlippe Art Gallery in Groton "considers how we navigate through life and challenges the viewer to ask, 'How have I come this way? 'Has my life mattered?'"
The exhibition includes a collaborative video installation and two-dimensional works by Pike Gordinier.
An award-winning artist and art teacher, Pike Gordinier has exhibited in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida and throughout New England. She's been a member of The Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, The Copley Society of Boston and the Connecticut Watercolor Society. Her work hangs in the collections of several Fortune 500 companies.
All of her work, she says, centers on a question and conveying possible answers or a narrative.
The collaborative video, titled "Am I? I am" was initially inspired by her own experiences of finding cairns-stones purposefully piled to mark a person, place or event.
Pike Gordinier first came upon cairns 18 years ago on a trail she and her husband were walking on in Saint-Rémy, France, where Van Gogh painted while institutionalized, and more recently, on Block Island and while walking the sculpture trail with a student at Avery Point.
"We want the world to know that we exist, that we've left our mark in some capacity," she says.
"That propelled a series of things-the first part of the question, 'Am I?' (which was) answered by working with collaborators, people I've been wanting to work with for years," she explains.
Pike Gordinier created a video, a combination of stills and footage filmed at daybreak in Vero Beach, Fla., where she teaches workshops every winter, and locally, on a beach in Stonington. Her collaborators include L'Ana Burton, Niantic dance artist and founder of Creative Dance Continuum at Connecticut College; Lana Orphanides, Groton published poet, whose 2011 poem, "Am I? I am" was an inspiration for the show; and Glen Hardy, Mystic composer, musician and teacher.
In the video, the cairn is built with the human body, instead of beach rocks-people pose inside hand-painted sacks, created by Phoebe Katzin, who's designed costumes for Momix and Pilobolus dance companies.
"The idea was to place people in the environment so you didn't know where the rock began and they began," Pike Gordinier says. "Some are obvious-others you really have to look twice.
"All of these people have done this for free, to be part of the creative process, Pike Gordinier notes, referring to her collaborators. "I find this phenomenal."
Expanding on the theme of the exhibit and engaging the public is an art installation titled "Collective Memories."
Pike Gordinier is inviting people to place a rock that has special meaning to them in a cairn inside a gigantic sandbox constructed by her husband.
"By relinquishing this stone, which unfortunately cannot be returned, you will be transforming your memories into new ones," she says.
She is also asking people to document their participation by writing their name and any memory associated with their rock on joss paper-used in Chinese culture to remember a loved one-which she'll provide, and then place it in a glass container.
"I like the idea that people can be engaged in this creative process," she says.
Other works in the show by Pike Gordinier utilize navigational charts, inks and photo transfer methods to record a moment in time.
"These mixed media pieces integrate organic and inorganic shapes with iconic images that reference our need to physically mark our presence," she says.
Pike Gordinier says Julia Pavone, AvS gallery director, was very supportive of her non-traditional exhibition.
"Very few galleries allow you to explore like this," she says. "Julia is really quite open to it."
Three other artists are showing their work independently in the Autumn Exhibition. Geoffrey Detrani of Hamden presents mixed media pieces; Leonardo Severo of Cuba and Miami, Fla., will exhibit paintings; and Jeffrey Slomba of West Haven presents an environmental sculptural installation titled "Tideland," which won the 2011 Sea Grant Art Award
What: Autumn Exhibition
Where: Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art, Branford House Mansion, UConn's Avery Point Campus, Groton
When: Now through Dec. 16. Gallery hours are Wed.-Sun., from noon to 4 p.m.
Cost: Members and students free, non-members $3.
Info: www.averypointarts.uconn.edu or call (860) 405-9052