House warming

Liminal: Crossing the Threshold

Natalie Rishe strokes her “bed of thread” at Grayspace.

Natalie Rishe strokes her “bed of thread” at Grayspace.

Photo By David Robert

The small, roughly 600-square-foot dwelling of Grayspace gallery was once part of someone’s home. Since the 1930s, people have slept here, cooked their meals here, warmed themselves by the fireplace and opened the window for a breeze.

As Reno’s newest gallery, it’s now all hardwood floors and white walls, but the domestic overtones remain.

For Grayspace’s debut exhibit, Liminal: Crossing the Threshold, owner Sara Gray invited artist Natalie Rishe, whose installation artworks focus on the intersection of the private and public sphere.

“The premise is the memory of the house as a domestic space on the brink of becoming a public space,” says Rishe, an outgoing 28-year-old artist based in Sacramento, Calif.

Around every corner of this exhibit are reminders that someone once lived here. It’s the presence of absence, the ghostly and vaporous.

The most fascinating, dizzying piece is untitled, but Rishe informally calls it “a bed of thread.” It’s a bedroom interior constructed with miles of white thread tied neatly to 2,000 inconspicuous hooks in the walls and ceiling. Horizontal thread forms the shape of a queen-sized bed, while vertical thread creates what appear to be walls. It’s a delightfully disorienting piece of white lines merging and morphing, inducing a strong case of the cross-eyes. Visitors should step carefully into this room—within two feet, they’ll run smack into the installation, perhaps not seeing it at first.

In the gallery’s main space, a video projector throws its rays on the fireplace, where, slowly, 150 candles appear one-by-one on its mantle and inside the hearth as a music box version of “Happy Birthday to You” tinkles in the background.

Next to the fireplace is a curtain rod with white curtains that match the room’s draperies. But those other curtains are draped over windows, while this one covers part of the wall. The curtain is slightly open and seems to blow outward, as though caught in a breeze that isn’t there. It’s the third piece in the exhibit—one that’s almost unnoticeable—a spectral nod to the building’s former life as a home, residue of what once was here.

Rishe and Gray have been friends for nearly a decade. That, combined with the intimate nature of Rishe’s work, says Gray, made her a natural choice for the opening exhibit.

Rishe teaches art at Sierra Junior college in Rocklin, Calif., but she lived in Reno for seven years. Before earning her master’s degree at UC Davis, she got her bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Nevada, Reno. UNR teachers Tamara Scronce and Bob Morrison played an instrumental role in her shift from photography to sculpture and installation art. It was also at UNR, where she minored in women’s studies, that she began to think more about the boundaries of the public and private, particularly related to women’s traditonal role in the domestic world and men’s role in the more public world of business and commerce. These ideas have since formed the basis for her work.

The entire exhibit, says Rishe, is really one big piece. “'Liminal’ is about the space in between,” she says. “'Crossing the threshold’ of a home is also about crossing the boundaries.”