By Sienna Jones
“Oh, feel free to turn the lamps on,” said the museum director as she stared down at the embellished music stands. “I know it’s tempting.” Garnished with lamps, bulbs, and knobs, Scott Keightley’s work beckons the curious.
Born out of quarantine, “Amnesia” seeks to “find meaning in the face of overwhelming tragedy through creative practice.” Determining that meaning seems to be the most important task of all. At first glance, the music stands seem to be nothing more than that, extraordinary in their ornate nature but otherwise simply decorated stands.
There is a large emphasis on light or at least the manipulation of it. Bulbs, crystals, and pieces of chandelier hang from the stands, in an almost haphazard arrangement. The lamps that border the top end of the music stand are clearly meant to illuminate these surfaces. Once turned on, the lights bounce and refract off the surfaces and add a new and exciting element to the pieces.
Aside from the bulbs and crystals, the music stands are also decorated with sheet music, keychains, and flowers. The sheet music is meant to serve as a “tender homage to the practice of his partner” Emily Dagget Smith, renowned violinist. Smith’s work is also featured in this exhibit.
“The reference to the light in the crystals and the clip-on lamps seems to support a desire to illuminate, heal, and reflect.” Considering this, it’s easy to see why these pieces would be included in an exhibition centered around Well/Being. How they embody this mission statement is a journey each observer must take individually, inviting both abstract and concrete analysis.
At first glance, you’re met with loud, flashy music stands. However flamboyant, they succeed in catching your eye. You may feel confused initially, and not sure what to focus on first. You have questions as to whether the piece should be absorbed as a whole or if the individual parts deserve equal amounts of attention. There’s a lot to look at, so you take your time. You wonder about the choice of the bulb, why some stands include flowers and others do not. You read the plaque, learn a little about Keightley, and come to find out that the work itself is deeply personal. He alludes to his partner, he comments on the pandemic, but his work promotes emotions both universal and timely.
As human beings, most of us can sympathize with the feeling of love and know the joy of existing when there’s someone there to share it with. And as inhabitants of the 21st century, living through the pandemic is something we all know, maybe a little too well. By combining such intense emotions, Keightley encourages us to find meaning despite the chaos. Discover your anchor, find what grounds you, and hold onto it.
If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s to not take things for granted. Life is fleeting, arbitrary, and uncontrollable, but recognizing fortune wherever it may appear (and wearing a mask) makes things worthwhile. Shine a little light on the turmoil and suddenly the chaos becomes beautiful, however temporary.