More than 100 handcrafted thermoplastic mushrooms will illuminate the park | Provided

Multidisciplinary artist Meredith Connelly is the mastermind behind the temporary installation “Mushrooms,” a site-specific installation in Hampton Park that is open now through Dec. 11. This art display marks the relaunch of Art in the Park, a public art initiative organized by nonprofit Charleston Parks Conservancy.

Connelly, an installation artist based near Charlotte, has worked with lighting and technology for more than a decade. Her latest creation “Mushrooms” consists of more than 100 handcrafted thermoplastic mushroom forms creating what she called a “multisensory and immersive experience.”

“I illuminate my installations and encase the lighting in industrial materials to reveal their organic qualities,” Connelly said. “I intentionally placed each installation component to highlight the architectural elements of the park’s natural setting through use of the cast light from the objects. Time is also an important principle of my design, as these works come and go like the seasons.”   

Connelly is inspired by science, nature and technology. Her creative process starts with walking outside, observing, sketching and “photographically foraging for inspiration.”

“In many cases, when I see a space, I have a vision of the installation I would like to create,” said Connelly, who designed “Mushrooms” specifically for the area surrounding Hampton Park’s Rose Pavilion. 

Connelly’s installation display marks the return of Art in the Park  

“At its core, my work is about connectivity,” she said. “The light connects the viewers, the natural environment and the installation components in a way that molds and drives an authentic and approachable experience.” 

Connelly began experimenting with the use of lighting in her work while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in studio art at the University of Wilmington. For nearly a decade afterward, she created indoor installations, with a few one-night-only outdoor pieces. In 2018, the artist was commissioned to create a series of temporary and site-specific outdoor installations in Charlotte along a half-mile trail. 

“It was a transformational moment and shift in my work, when I brought the work back to the spaces that inspired the designs,” Connelly said. “Creating site-specific installations using light as a material has always been a foundational part of my practice, but when I pushed beyond the walls of man-made structures and connected it to the earth, the seasons and the elements, it felt intuitive, ancestral and inherent.”

The artist is inspired by natural specimens, like fungi, shells, nests and other organic phenomena that are often overlooked, but in actuality, play a critical role in supporting a healthy and thriving ecosystem.

“Fungi, like many of the other specimens I explore conceptually, have activity and intelligence that are not seen by the naked eye,” she said. 

“Similarly to the human brain, mushrooms communicate with electrical impulses sent through their mycelium, a complex network underground similar to a root system. They are transformational, as they renew something that has decomposed into something usable for the plants and animals around them. That is why I chose to reflect on them creatively through temporary and site-specific work,” Connelly said. 

This display relaunches Art in the Park, a public art initiative organized by the Charleston Parks Conservancy. The installation is the first after a two-year pandemic pause in the Art in the Park project, and the first in the series under the leadership of Natalie Jones, who recently joined the conservancy as its director of public art and programs.

Jones spotted Connelly’s work on Instagram and instantly recognized it as a perfect fit for the program, which seeks to make public art accessible in the city of Charleston.

“Working with Natalie Jones and her team at the Charleston Parks Conservancy has been an utter joy,” said Connelly, who is excited about the accessibility of this
exhibition, and how the public can engage openly, freely and in nature. 

“There are many artists that have specific intentions for their viewers, but my work is public, and so I focus on meeting people where they are … The work, time and nature unify to create unique and individualized experiences for viewers.” 

The artist pushes deep care and intention into her creations with the hope that viewers “have a moment” with the art. 

“At the core,” she said, “my work is about connection and making space.”

Meredith Connelly will give an artist talk at the Gibbes Museum of Art Nov. 19. “Mushrooms” will be on display in Hampton Park, located at 30 Mary Murray Drive, near the Rose Pavilion now through Dec. 11. 

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