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MacDowell artist plays the space between

Performance and sculpture featured at next First Friday

Tamar Ettun is a visual artist who likes balloons — hot-air balloons to be specific. Over the past five years, she’s explored the possibilities of the silky fabric as a container for exhibitions mounted at venues from Tel Aviv to Indianapolis. For this month’s edition of MacDowell Downtown, Ettun will present short videos of past mixed-media work and introduce two projects she’s developing during her first MacDowell residency. The self-described maker of things also will talk about how questions of mass, weight, color and shape — and their relationships to the body — inform her work. The free hour-long presentation starts at 7:30 p.m. at The Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough.

“I made my first balloon out of a parachute,” she said. “It’s the same shape; you just think about it differently.” Ettun explains that balloons are romantic and “symbolize the vast space of possibility,” unlike the practical military use of parachutes. She said she was inspired to work with balloons partly as a result of her two years as part of an Israeli paratrooper unit.

Ettun is currently working on a “personal hot-air balloon,” trying to scale down the larger pieces she has worked on in the past.

For a solo show earlier this year at The Braverman Gallery in Tel Aviv, she sculpted musical instruments from found objects and created video work and photographs for display inside a hot-air balloon filling the gallery. As the audience filed into the balloon gallery, a band performed on the instruments before handing them over to the audience with an invitation to play.

An earlier installation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art involved a hot-air balloon that contained a multi-media performance with musicians and dancers. Visitors were free to walk around the shifting performance space or enter to watch as dancers moved from one end of the balloon to the other, each making an effort to complete specific tasks while negotiating the inflated, changing environment.

“It was a timeless performance in the sense that viewers could come and go and performers worked from a general outline or structure I worked on collaboratively with them,” Ettun said, noting that watching the dancers move within a moving space gets people to consider their own relationships to the space. “I guess I want people to think about their own bodies.”

Ettun hopes the same effect will be elicited when people view her second MacDowell project: a series of hands and masks cast in familiar and strange expressions. Viewing the frozen forms, viewers have the chance to consider ways they express themselves in a new light.

“It’s always been about sculpture for me,” Ettun said. “But I do videos, too, sort of combining sculpture and performance art.”

Having earned a BFA from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in her native Jerusalem and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University School of Art, Ettun relocated to Brooklyn in 2010 to establish her studio. Calling Peterborough home this May and June, she’ll share past and future work at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture on Friday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m.

MacDowell Downtown, a series of free presentations by MacDowell Colony artists, is presented the first Friday of each month from March to November. Doors open at 7 p.m. See www.macdowellcolony.

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