A Cloud Garden Sprouts in the Trees at Guild Hall

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A sculptural piece from Monica Banks' "Cloud Garden." Courtesy of Guild Hall.

Things are looking up in East Hampton. At least they are in Guild Hall’s gardens.
“Cloud Garden,” a site-specific outdoor installation and community project by East Hampton artist Monica Banks, features delicate, ethereal tangles of wire, deer fencing, and other materials, coupled with multicolored artifacts from the artist’s everyday life, to create mobiles that bring together the childlike love of cloud gazing with the poignancy of art created during a pandemic.

“When Christina Strassfield invited me to do something to activate the Furman Garden, it seemed natural to incorporate the trees somehow,” Banks said. “I’ve installed outdoor clouds in private settings before, and was thrilled to have this opportunity to do a larger installation in a public space. There’s an optimism and freedom about the trees — the ever-changing light, the gentle breeze, and outdoor space where we can safely socialize; it’s a privilege to celebrate that with my work.”

The “Cloud” series started in 2006, when Banks received boxes of toys, trinkets and other mementos from her childhood and united those fragments from her past with tokens of her present life into jumbled memory “clouds” that gave meaning to her history through kinetic sculpture.

Now she has returned with a new series of mobiles, inserting, this time around, the minutia of domestic life unearthed during a prolonged quarantine. Orphaned socks, the remnants of a sculpture she made for her infant son almost a quarter-century ago, tufts of fur from her new puppy (along with pieces of the Nerf ball he demolished) — these and a plethora of other colorful and meaningful objects highlight how housebound artists have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Right now my process entails making art to survive and making sense of the many current crises swirling around us,” Banks said. “Revisiting the ‘Cloud’ series, which originally incorporated souvenirs of my young family and my own childhood, was a natural way to work with this material.”

And speaking of childhood, Banks embarks on her role as community-artist-in-residence by sharing her work and process through remote workshops with children from the Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center.

“Each child will receive a box of materials,” Banks said. “We are also telling them to bring in some artifacts from home — things that remind them of this moment, or a memory. I’m really looking forward to seeing all the wonderful surprises.”

The cloud sculptures created by the kids will be part of an expanded installation in Guild Hall’s Minikes Garden, with its own opening on Saturday, September 19.

Through reinventing her past work, incorporating commonplace, close-at-hand objects, Monica Banks has created the unusual and elegant sculptures in the trees in the Guild Hall garden which, like real clouds, offer a fresh perspective from every angle, a chance for visitors to engage with nature and their own imagination, and one artist’s visual record of this extraordinary time.

“Cloud Garden” is curated by Guild Hall’s museum director and chief curator, Christina Strassfield. The project coordinator is arts educator Anthony Madonna.

The exhibition is free and open to the public and on view during regular museum hours, Friday to Monday, noon to 5 p.m., through October 12. Guild Hall is at 158 Main Street, East Hampton and the gardens are self-monitoring spaces. Patrons are asked to observe proper physical-distancing and maximum capacity and to wear face-coverings on the grounds. For more information visit guildhall.org.

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