Fabric for art piece being tested at Cuesta College

slinn@thetribunenews.comMay 18, 2014 

A fabric scrim, designed by San Diego artist Robert Irwin, is being tested at Cuesta College this week. The scrim is for a proposed project that is scheduled to go on display at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. next year.

JAY THOMPSON

Cuesta College is the test site for a fabric scrim designed by acclaimed San Diego artist Robert Irwin.

San Luis Obispo sculptor Jeff Jamieson, a former Cuesta art instructor, said the scrim is a prototype for an as-yet-untitled proposed installation that is scheduled to go on display at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in the spring of 2015.

“Having my students exposed to a work of this caliber has just been amazing,” said Margaret Korisheli, who chairs Cuesta's Fine Arts Department. She said Jamieson even gave her sculpture students the inside scoop on the project.

 “It’s just been such a fabulous experience for them,” Korisheli said. “I’m very excited that we were able to do this on our campus.”

Jamieson and his assistants, brother Dalton Jamieson and Kyle Wilhelm, installed the scrim May 12 and 13 at the arbor between Cuesta’s Art Department building and the school’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center. It consists of a gently curved expanse of white, translucent fabric measuring 12 feet by 40 feet, stretched between wooden supports.

“We just want to watch how it does in these conditions,” Jamieson said, paying special attention to the way the fabric performs in strong winds.

According to the artist, museum curators are concerned about weather events such as the derecho, or, fast-moving aggressive thunderstorm system, that slammed the Washington, D.C., area in June 2012.

Although he’s still waiting for stronger winds, Jamieson said, the Cuesta College test has produced encouraging results so far.

He’ll next journey to Washington, D.C., to install two scrims on site and see how they fare.
According to Jamieson, Irwin’s proposed installation will feature three dozen fabric scrims measuring 14 feet high and 39 to 46 feet long. These will radiate like the spokes of the wheel from a central courtyard out through the open walkway beneath the cylindrical building.

 “I always wanted to be a famous artist,” quipped Jamieson, who owned the now-closed Compact Gallery in San Luis Obispo. “(But) you have to figure out how to make money. It’s next to impossible.”

The next best thing, he said, is hanging out with folks in “the upper echelons of American artists” and helping them bring their visions to life.

Jamieson has served as the licensed fabricator of the Judd Foundation’s furniture line since 1990, hand-crafting wooden chairs, bookcases and beds according to artist Donald Judd’s original designs.

Jamieson met Irwin about a decade ago through the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas.

Irwin sent the initial plans for his Chinati installation to Jamieson, who made a model of the project. Then Irwin came to San Luis Obispo to see the model in person, launching their working relationship in earnest.

“To work for him is a dream,” Jamieson said of Irwin.

Jamieson said he’s especially enjoyed having a front seat to the artist’s creative process.
For instance, he said,

Irwin will sometimes make substantial changes to an installation just days before it’s supposed to go on display.

“He’ll come in during install and we’ll make really brilliant changes, which is exciting and scary for museum curators,” said Jamieson, explaining that those alterations might involve painting walls, tinting glass or cutting doors into scrims. “You get to see this thing oscillate and shift. … That’s the kind of stuff you can’t pay money for.”

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