When Jason Paradis was growing up about 45 minutes from Montreal, he and his family frequently went camping in the northern Canadian wilderness.
“We went camping once or twice a month,” says Paradis, “even in the winter.”
The regular immersion in nature was a formative of experience for Paradis, who says he developed “a spiritual relationship” with the outdoors that continues to shape his work as an artist.
“In my art, there is a sense of contemplation or of reverie that speculates on fundamental mysteries–this being the result of a lot of camping under an expansive sky in the northern Canadian wilderness,” Paradis writes in his artist statement.
“There, questions emerged regarding the existence of something much larger than the immediate world,” he writes.
Paradis brings this sense of mystery into the Loudoun House this week with Lexington Kaleidoscope, a mixed-media installation based on star formations that would be visible if you looked out the windows of the gallery at night.
Paradis, who now lives in New York, is one of five artists transforming the Loudoun House this week for SITE, a large-scale, site-specific installation that will change the way you see your surroundings.
Using an iPhone app, Paradis plotted the star formations visible from the Loudoun House and painted them on canvases exactly as they would appear if you could see them, technically accurate regarding the location and magnitude of each star, while also abstracted to create a visual response and reinterpretation.
The star-plot is again transferred on Plexiglas covering the gallery windows to relate to that view outside, each hole representing a star.
More than 1400 strands of colored yarn stream from the star formations to a stone cairn in the center of the room.
Paradis began focusing on location-based star formations in his artwork about a decade ago, when he discovered a journal he had kept as a boy.
“I found an old journal where I had tried to keep track of the stars when I was ten or eleven,” says Paradis. “That’s where the star pieces started. I started transferring images from that journal into paintings and then it became a metaphor for me.”
“It’s not that I am that into stars, it is the metaphor that fascinates me,” says Paradis, “the idea of distance and time is all wrapped up in the stars, because they are light which travels and carries an image. You can kind of go back in time if you think about how far away something is.”
Paradis says that gazing up at the stars from the warmth of a campfire as a young boy inspired him to think about the paradoxes of time, how light is a carrier for images that existed millions of years ago, and may not exist at all anymore.
The colored strands of yarn which descend from Paradis’ star formations represent the rays of light traveling from the stars to earth and likewise, traveling from the earth out into the cosmos.
Viewers of the installation experience them as a kaleidoscope of connections from the earth to the expansive of the universe.
“When I was camping, one of my relatives said, ‘you know, that star might not even be there anymore,’” says Paradis. “In reverse, it could be that if someone saw a light from earth, they might be seeing images of from the time of dinosaurs.”
Meet Jason Paradis and experience his work in person at the opening of SITE this Friday, May 24, 6-9 p.m. We’ll have food and drinks from local food trucks and admission is FREE ($5 donation suggested and appreciated).