Kansas City artist Peregrine Honig spent time this year in artist residencies — one in China, and, an unofficial one, closer to home at the Hotel Phillips.
Some of the drawings and prints she created will soon be on display in a replica hotel suite — inside the Belger Crane Yard gallery. Sexuality and vulnerability, power and luxury — and privacy all collide in a new multimedia installation called Suites.
The Hotel Phillips, located downtown near the Sprint Center and the Power and Light District, is a boutique hotel, and it provides opportunities for artists — including artist residencies. In early 2015, Honig turned one of the suites into a impromptu studio. She worked alone in what she described as "temporary luxury."
Honig brought simple tools, like pen, paper, and ink, and started drawing what goes on behind closed doors. She's active on social media, and shares new work there, but she realized she couldn’t just post these sexually charged black and white drawings on Facebook or Instagram. The bodies were too exposed.
So she made some changes.
"I spilled ink on them," Honig describes, "and so, just that ink veil became more illicit or seductive or succubus because you could no longer see … or exactly know what was going on with the figures on the paper."
Visitors will use a key to enter room 1801, with its tan walls, patterned brown carpeting, and furniture brought over from the hotel. There’s even a slight whiff of fresh paint.
"The carpet’s the same, the bed is the same, the light is the same," Honig says. "And it really is, the attention to the detail — making sure that there’s a Gideon’s bible in one of the drawers, making sure that the pillow are correct and that the lamp is correct."
But there are subtle differences, such as two pillows on the bed with cursive writing. One says "f***ing," and the other says, "crying." And for her drawings, she commissioned two artists to build picture frames for art you wouldn’t see in most hotels.
"It’s usually flowers or landscapes or something that’s as neutral as possible, that doesn’t give a nod to anything that may or may not have happened in the room previously," Honig says. "And the drawings and prints that I’m showing are very sexual and they are about the things that happen in hotel rooms."
Honig had a vision for this hotel room. Her drawings would, as she put it, activate the walls, her pillows would activate the bed. But what about the hotel staple: an oversized TV screen?
To collaborate on a short film, which plays on a loop in the room, she reached out to videographer Johanna Brooks and to choreographer Jane Gotch.
"I like to work with positive and negative space and so within her drawings, the ink created very similar types of forms," says Gotch, who specializes in site-specific works.
Rehearsals took place in the hotel room with four dancers: Leo Gayden, Angie Sansone, Juliet Remmers and Cat Mahari. Their backgrounds are diverse, from street dancing to classical ballet.
"So using the bed as a stage and creating positive and negative shapes against the white sheets, against the head board, against the bodies," Gotch says.
There’s a narrative dealing with themes of sexuality, gender – and privacy. Johanna Brooks says emotions change quickly.
"My goal is to confront the viewer and to kind of change their mood," says Brooks. "There’s pieces where it’s really sweet and beautiful, but then there are images where I hoped people will cringe, I hope people will feel uncomfortable."
Honig says there’s ambiguity – and the exploration of what's often unspoken and unseen in relationships.
"It’s an incredibly sensitive film," says Honig. "There are moments where Johanna and Jane and I have to decide if we don’t want something in the film because it’s hard to see, or because it doesn’t fit into the film.
"That’s the place you always want to be with your work in some ways – have I helped produced something that really hurts to see, or it’s so beautiful it hurts to see it."
Only two people will be allowed in the room at a time, and they can stay up to 15 minutes. Cell phones will be checked at the door. Visitors, says Honig, might also find that uncomfortable.
"For them to experience the room, they have to leave that history behind," she says. "I hope it allows for a more immediate and experiential situation in this room."
Honig says she hopes to be watching as people leave the space — to look at their faces and to see what’s revealed.
'Peregrine Honig: Suites,' September 18 - December 19, 2015; reception, Friday, September 18, 6 - 9 pm, Belger Crane Yard Studios, 2011 Tracy Avenue, Kansas City, Missouri. 816-474-7316. To view a short clip of the video, check here.
Clarification: The Hotel Phillips has a selection process for their artist-in-residence program. Artist Peregrine Honig was provided a suite as a temporary studio in early 2015, but she was not the artist-in-residence. Madeline Gallucci served this role at Hotel Phillips from 2014 - 2015.