The rainmaker

Berkeley artist takes over 1078 Gallery with water

1078 Gallery

820 Broadway St.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 343-1973

Imagine yourself sitting by a lake, at night, listening to the sound of little waves lapping repeatedly at the shore and watching the reflection of the moon break up into sparkling, moving pieces on the lake’s surface.

It’s beautiful and calming, and somewhat mysterious—and it’s very similar to some of the sensations evoked by the visual art of Kimberlee Koym-Murteira.

Only, Koym-Murteira creates the sensation of what the moon and rippling water do naturally through total artifice—with walk-through installations that incorporate video (of mundane household tasks such as making a bed) and very creatively utilized ordinary household items such as plastic bags and bottles, pegboard and glass jars, plus light, water and sound.

The 38-year-old ex-Texan spoke recently by phone from the Berkeley home she shares with her illustrator husband and their 3-year-old daughter about her upcoming show at 1078 Gallery, Fractured Translucence. The site-specific exhibit will feature, among other things, in the center of the gallery floor, a three-sided installation—constructed of 8-by-8-foot panels made of liquid-filled plastic bags—that gallery-goers can walk into and out of.

“As people enter the space, they’ll experience different layers of translucence,” offered Koym-Murteira, who will use a projection system to project colors and light through the bags of liquid, accompanied by the sound of water. “I think of it as a big shower curtain. It’s a shower stall that’s three-sided. It’s a horrible way to describe it, but it’s also a good metaphor because I’m trying to create private space that people can enter.”

She likens the appeal of her work to “a baby watching a rainstorm or the reflections on the window when it’s raining.”

“It’s the power of natural phenomena, you know—it has the same pull on you all the time,” said Koym-Murteira. “I have a fascination with wonderment and things of beauty that never lose their presence. The irony is that I am trying to do it with plastic bags. [Fractured translucence] is a theme that’s been going on [for me] since I used to be a painter and set designer.”

In the 1990s, Koyem-Murteira worked on sets for theater, television and Hollywood feature films such as Courage Under Fire and Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.

“Sitting on the set, I became frustrated,” she said, explaining her move away from set design and toward expressing her own artistic vision. “I was trying to get somewhere to have my own voice heard.”

Oakland’s Mills College, where she received her MFA in studio art in 2007, was where Koym-Murteira “got into the power of materials” and found that she could have “so much to say with just a simple object. It opened up a new vein of exploration.

“I am having this troubled relationship with toxics in our environment,” Koym-Murteira continued, “and also the toxic things we do to ourselves by having too much to do in the day.” For her MFA show, Locket Machine, she explored the theme by showing a video of daily tasks projected through pegboard holes. “By showing [the video], I think I’m trying to get at how precious those [tasks] are compared to crazy life.

“I’m not really a Buddhist,” Koym-Murteira says, “but more and more, I think my artwork has that idea of Buddhism, or some kind of meditational aspect. … The sound of water bubbling—that sound is really nice. It’s relaxing.”