Tremaine Welcomes “Truppe Fledermaus”


David Li ’21

Francisco Barrios, Instructor in Spanish, takes in a scene from the gallery’s newest exhibit.

As viewers enter the Tremaine Gallery, a half-human, half-bat form hanging from the ceiling contrasts sharply with the white walls. The piece, inspired by Johann Strauss’s operetta, “Die Fledermaus,” is but one in a multi-media exhibition. On view since January 25, “Truppe Fledermaus & the Carnival at the End of the World” features the work of photographers and installation artists Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick.
The two artists, professionally known as Kahn & Selesnick, met while attending Washington University in St. Louis in the 1980s. Their works have been exhibited in many museums, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Fogg Museum at Harvard University.
Ms. Terri Moore, director of the Tremaine Gallery and instructor in art, coordinated the exhibit. The stories behind the art are an important reason Ms. Moore was drawn to their work. She said, “One reason I love the duo is that they deliver such rich narratives through their works. They support their almost Shakespearean fictional art with historical, literal, and allegorical details. They even did page-by-page illustrations for a chapter of a book, which are now displayed on the wall across from the entrance.”
As Kahn and Selesnick have installations worldwide, the artists selected pieces from many works to be displayed at the school. Ms. Moore then arranged the works by medium, including sections for photography, ceramic sculpture, watercolor painting, and multi-media pieces. She said, “My experience working with Nicholas and Richard was truly magical. Watching them …[felt] like watching beautifully-executed performance art.”
The exhibit imagines a traveling cabaret troupe named “Truppe Fledermaus,” or “Bat Troupe,” traveling the world and performing in natural landscapes. Climate change is an important theme in Kahn and Selesnick’s work. The duo not only depicts the sublime beauty of nature, but also its destruction. Recurring bat motifs show how the lives of wild animals are affected by natural disasters and human interference. The upside-down, humanoid bat installation highlights the oft-ignored animal, and ceramic bat sculptures call attention to the White bat fungus disease, which gradually devours bats’ noses before destroying their brains.
The reception garnered positive reviews from community members. Tate Klackmann, a local artist, commented, “This show is magical. It’s amazing to see all the different forms of artistic expression in one show. It’s truly very inspiring.”
Clark Dong ’22 said, “I love how the artists are able to deliver their thoughts in so many different ways. Their expressiveness is very inspiring.”
Students in advanced photography and visual art electives will visit the exhibit and explore the intersections and similarities between photography and the fine arts. Ms. Colleen MacMillan, instructor in photography, said, “This show is beautiful. I love how the artists cross the boundaries between drawing and photography. They employ the chiaroscuro technique, a Baroque technique utilizing strong lighting to create contrast and reference the Pre-Raphaelite painting ‘Ophelia’ with the way they submerged their portrait subject in water with carefully arranged florals.”
The show will be on display until February 23. A Kahn & Selesnick artist talk is scheduled for February 13 at 6:30 p.m.