Super Catcher, Vast Array is a hanging sculptural installation that takes the form of multiple Native American dream catchers, made of wire and bells. Associated with both Ojibwe and Lakota traditions, dreamcatchers were used as talismans to protect sleeping people, usually children, from bad dreams and nightmares. Native Americans believe that the night air is filled with dreams — hung above the bed in a place where the morning sunlight can hit it, the dream catcher draws all sorts of dreams and thoughts into its webs. Good dreams pass through and gently slide down the feathers to comfort the sleeper below, while bad dreams are caught up in its protective net and destroyed, burned up in the light of day. The beads used in dream catchers are thought to symbolize either or both the spider (the web weaver itself), or the good dreams that could not pass through the web, immortalized in the form of sacred charms.Originally small in size and made with natural materials such as feathers and beads, many dreamcatchers for sale today are often oversized and made of cheap plastic materials. Many Native American cultures still consider the dreamcatcher to be a symbol of unity and identification, while others have come to see dreamcatchers as a symbol of cultural appropriation.
Working at a large-scale to create intricate, wire and bell sculptures that shimmer and cast shadows as the light passes over and through the space, Kahlhamer subverts commercial association. Rather, his work affirms the magical, mythical spirit of the dreamcatcher, expanding its power. Super Catcher, Vast Array is a superhero—delicate yet strong, heavy with history yet light with new hopes and dreams.
This work highlights the role of the artist as healer or shaman, bringing a sense of balance, compassion, and inclusivity to a space originally designed to celebrate European-American expansion and the mythology of manifest destiny, as illustrated in the historic murals in the historic Savoy lounge. As the artist explained, the installation of his Super Catcher, Vast Array will “create a visual ‘football game’ with a more level playing field, invoking a multiplicity of histories, visions and voices.” The presence of Kahlhamer’s work transforms a space of the past into a forward-focused one of the present, acknowledging the complexity of history and the potential for progress, a reminder of the advances made since the restaurant’s first incarnation — visual confirmation that art is the highest form of hope.
SuperCatcher, Vast Array is included in the inaugural Midwest biennial, Open Spaces, that will take place in Kansas City from August 25 to October 28, 2018, curated by Dan Cameron. A previous iteration of SuperCatcher, Vast Array was presented in 2017 for Prospect 4, the New Orleans biennial.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Brad Kahlhamer works with a range of media including; sculpture, painting, performance and music, to explore what he refers to as the “third place”— a meeting point of two opposing personal histories. His work often features motifs of Native American visual culture such as totem poles, teepees, and hawks, while weaving in elements of popular culture that interrogate his own, complex, multilayered identity.
Brad Kahlhamer was born in Tucson, Arizona and currently lives in New York City. His work has been exhibited extensively in the United States as well as internationally. Bowery Nation was shown at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Missouri, 2013 and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Connecticut, 2012. Recent group exhibitions include One Must Know The Animals, The Old, Weird America: Folk Themes in Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas, 2008. Kahlhamer was the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Award in 2006, as well as the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in painting in 2001. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Andréhn-Schiptjenko in Stockholm.