Artist recreates Northwestern sunrise, sunset inside Dittmar Gallery


Portrait by Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Artist Jason Paradis’ “Night for Day” exhibit features a carefully constructed version of the sky as seen from Evanston.

Alice Yin, Development Editor

The Dittmar Gallery room will be transformed into a Northwestern-personalized map of the evening sky, complete with rocks from around campus.

Called the “Night for Day” exhibit, the art installation will open Friday and be featured until Feb. 8. Jason Paradis, a New York-based artist and university professor, will attend an opening reception tomorrow evening.

This installation is uniquely made for NU. Paradis used a computer program to plot the position of the stars during Friday’s sunrise and sunset. He set the location to a viewpoint above Dittmar Gallery and crafted 16 paintings to be placed around the room.

“I’ve been interested in nautical twilight lately,” Paradis said. “That sort of moment when the sun is on the horizon … that moment between night and day … I thought that was an interesting juxtaposition.”

A pile of rocks, which was directly taken from NU’s construction sites and old buildings, will rest in the center of the room, connected with yarn to stars in the paintings on the wall. Paradis said the direction of yarn represents rays of light from the stars hitting the rock pile — or light spilling out of the rocks and into the paintings, depending on the visitor’s interpretation.

“It shifts as you walk around it, encouraging people to walk in and around and under the strings,” Paradis said. “There’s this sense that nothing is the same.”

The setting also evokes an ominous feeling, Paradis said. Like the lone hiker at dusk, visitors should also have sense of mystery when they walk inside the collection.

Paradis, who does a lot of camping, wanted his installation to emulate the atmosphere of sitting under the stars by a fire. His paintings, which are an assortment of blue washes with stars and lines painted over, depict the shifting sky during sunrise and sunset. The pile of rocks represents something man-made — a campfire pit or a burial mound, for example.

“You feel like this small person,” Paradis said. “I guess part of it is I want people to contemplate what it is that they end up doing when looking up at the stars.”

For the color scheme, Paradis used shades of cobalt and navy as the lightening and darkening sky. The canvases are built on multiple layers as a mock imitation of nature. Paradis said this color selection includes colors that everyone associates with the sky, but that they are still just representations.

“We say the sky is blue but it’s not,” Paradis said. “It’s gray, it’s all these other colors.”

Paradis arrived on Wednesday to begin setting up. It is his first exhibition featured in the Chicago area. He has been working on the design and paintings of this installation for the past six months.

SESP junior Darien Wendell, who serves as Dittmar’s curator and coordinator, assisted Paradis with setting up the installation. She said his localizing the work to Dittmar’s location is a unique concept that she hasn’t seen before while working with the gallery, and she thinks students will love the display.

“People are going to have their socks knocked off,” Wendell said. “It was really beautiful and intricate — seeing how he took kind of the ethereal sky and brought it down and made it material.”

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