The Staff of Asclepias
June 6 - August 1, 2020

by Erik Deluca
Curated by Sofia Bastidas Vivar and May Makki

The exhibiton is meant to be
experienced in two locations and at a safe distance through a window, from a car, or by appointment:

ANTEROOM is at 411 N. Beaton Street in Corsicana (75110). 

Sweet Pass Sculpture Park is at 402 Fabrication Street in Dallas (75212).

A Sculpture To Help Monarch Butterflies Make Their Journey - KERA

Artist Erik DeLuca’s ‘Staff of Asclepias’ Now on View at Anteroom and Sweet Pass - Glasstire

Exhibition at Dallas’ Sweet Pass Sculpture Park pays homage to the migration of monarchs - Dallas Morning News

The Staff of Asclepias is a social and environmental sculpture conceived by artist Erik DeLuca during his stay at the Corsicana Artist & Writer Residency (also known as 100W), which offers residencies to artists and writers from around the world. DeLuca worked with several members of the Corsicana community to design a series of way stations for the monarch butterfly. The monarch is the Texas state insect and has fascinated DeLuca since he arrived in Texas.

DeLuca converted the Samuels Building, an 1880s mercantile building two blocks from 100W, into a nursery for milkweed. Because monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the plant, adult butterflies migrating north from Mexico in the spring depend on it to lay their eggs. The growing scarcity of milkweed in the wild has contributed to a drastic 80% decrease in the monarch population. The milkweed DeLuca raised – some 1,000 plants – has been distributed to land at the Hebrew Cemetery in Corsicana and to Sweet Pass Sculpture Park. The exhibit title references the scientific genus of the milkweed, Asclepias.

The exhibition at the ANTEROOM, a window gallery across the street from 100W, includes a sample table with milkweed and a magenta grow light from the Samuels Building nursery and a rendition of the song Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof playing at dusk and dawn. The exhibition at Sweet Pass Sculpture Park includes some 300 of the milkweed plants raised by the artist, which he invited people to plant at the park in early June in accordance with social distancing measures. The milkweed garden is accompanied by a time-based light and sound installation that plays daily at sunrise and sunset. It includes the same rendition of the song at the ANTEROOM and a 100-plus-foot horizontal white LED light sculpture suspended above the ground, invoking the staff of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. The north-south line of the light sculpture gestures toward the monarchs’ migratory path from Mexico to Canada while conveying ideas of prosperity, health and rejuvenation.

Bastidas said the project exemplifies the Pollock Gallery’s goal of expanding its programming beyond its walls to provide additional opportunities for SMU art students and the community to broaden their understanding of public art and community engagement.

The Staff of Asclepias is ambitious in both scale and impact,” said Bastidas. “It engages with questions of migration and the powerful indirect interactions that can control entire ecosystems. DeLuca’s endeavor to place nature’s patterns at the center of his work offers a new possibility of solidarity, as he dedicates his practice to the service and understanding of vital non-human networks.” 

Images: 1-2-3 Kyle Hobratschk, 4-5 Trey Burns, 6-7 Finn Jubak. 

The Staff of Asclepias is accompanied by a publication with contributions by DeLuca and Bastidas, as well as by SMU visiting lecturer in art Tamara Johnson and Trey Burns, founders of Sweet Pass Sculpture Park, and SMU art alumnus Kyle Hobratschk (’11). The publication was produced by RISO BAR and designed by Juliette Kang.

Erik DeLuca is an artist and musician working with performance, sculpture, text and social practice. He has lectured, performed and exhibited at a variety of places including MASS MoCA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Contemporary Austin, The Living Art Museum (Iceland), Columbia School of the Arts, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, CalArts, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Fieldwork: Marfa, Yale University School of Art, and Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia and held visiting professorships at the Iceland University of the Arts (2016-18) and Brown University (2018-20).

ANTEROOM is a window-front gallery across the street from the entrance of the Corsicana Artist & Writer Residency (100W). The gallery hosts work relevant to 100W’s evolving narrative, which is shaped by 100W’s residents and studio spaces and the small-town environment of Corsicana, Texas. ANTEROOM is positioned in front of a printmaking and drafting studio, which is in front of a domestic room used occasionally for gallery entertaining, which opens into a back patio. For more information, visit the ANTEROOM website.

Sweet Pass Sculpture Park is an artist run exhibition space located on an acre lot in West Dallas, TX. Programming highlights emerging and mid-career artists in an outdoor setting on a rotating basis. Sweet Pass is a project by Tamara Johnson and Trey Burns.

The Corsicana Artist & Writer Residency, located an hour south of Dallas at 100 W. 3rd Street in Corsicana (hence the name 100W), is a nonprofit international residency for artists and writers, founded in 2012 by SMU Meadows art alumni Kyle Hobratschk, Travis LaMothe, Adrienne Lichliter, Anna Membrino and David Searcy. Large-scale, light-filled rooms are provided alongside complete living accommodations and wood shop access to foster work in visual art or writing. 100W provides open studio and presentation events, student engagement activities, workshops, museum partnerships, resident projects and publications and more. Due to its popularity, the residency program is growing to include other sites in Corsicana.

RISO BAR is a publishing initiative and cooperative space that facilitates collaboration and experimentation using risograph technology. It is designed for communal gathering and collective learning between designers, artists, writers, educators and students.