Kipp Gallery presents: The Mountain and the Bumblebee

(Daniel Kirby/ The Penn)

Located on the first floor of Sprowls Hall, the Kipp Gallery is playing host to the traveling art exhibit known only as The Mountain and the Bumblebee until Dec. 5.

Open from noon to 4 p.m. on weekends, the gallery provides an opportunity to lose oneself in an ever-changing landscape of visual, written and auditory art.

The exhibit got its name from an unlikely historical anecdote. In 1842, John C. Fremont, a surveyor and geologist, wrote about a surprise mountaintop meeting with a bumblebee where he imagined “each of them to be the first of their species ever to brave such geological extremes.”

The Mountain and the Bumblebee is a collection of contemporary paintings, photos, sculptures, poems, recordings and set pieces by modern artists. Every piece in the exhibit deals with both broadly and specifically defined landscapes.

The gallery attempts to reconcile American interaction with landscapes and their own natural state, challenging the passerby to question humanity’s mark on the world. In turn, one must question the effect of the landscape on the individual American, from a cultural, physical and psychological perspective.

The art also looks cool.

A pyramid of poetry behind a clear glass case is the first thing students can see as they pass Kipp Gallery. The pyramid, or perhaps the mountain, of poetry expertly sets the stage for the following works. It captures the austere and natural essence that all the art encompasses, as well as the hints of both challenging and accepting the American Dream.

Entering the main gallery, students can pick up a small booklet detailing further works by the artists showcased, as well as a concise but informative map and informational summary of the entire exhibit.

Recordings play softly in the background, listing numbers that correspond to different professions – 131,000 smiths, 82,000 miners, etc.

The Mountain and the Bumblebee is a study in contradictions, the visual with the auditory, the expansionist and conservationist aspects of the American psyche, the human with the natural, the majesty and stoicism of the mountain with the humbleness and whimsy of the bumblebee.

Within the white-walled enclosure of Kipp lie a melange of different colorful pieces.

Photographs of the center points of the United States population – meant to demonstrate the inexorable march westward of Americans and immigrants caused by the power of the American dream – rest across from small woodcuts that show the layered and toxic ramifications of human interaction with the natural world. Looped videos of people walking are played on old-fashioned televisions that rest on the exhibit’s centerpiece, a large hand-carved wooden cart.

The exhibits’ last piece is intricately small bumblebees that require a magnifying glass to even see properly.

Everything has moved in a circle form: poetic mountain top, through the ever-changing valley of art to mountain top again, and that unexpected encounter with the bumblebee.

Merely hearing about the art is not enough – everyone should make the effort to see the gallery in person.