The Breath of Immortality: The Life of Inanimate Objects

A review of The Box Gallery exhibit at Summit Artspace

 by Josy Jones


I wanted to name this article “If Your Tinder Profile Says You’re an Avid Reader” or “Do you Creepily People Watch and Create Intricate Life Scenarios for the Strangers Passing by? Then This Exhibit is for You.” However, writing is a never-ending lesson that all ideas aren’t the greatest, and not all titles are created equal. Lucky for you.

The current exhibits in the Box Gallery at Summit Artspace are Karen Koch and Amber McElreath’s “Delivering Stories” gallery and Ralph Hunt’s “Dolls as Metaphor.” All these artists were enthralled by the lives of inanimate objects, including books, toys, necklaces, letters and even an abandoned bird’s nest. One with an unimaginative eye may only see these objects as junk— things to be discarded and forgotten. Yet, if you look closely, they are keeping memories alive and telling stories of their own.  

The use of letters in “Delivering Stories” is a strong example of how something inanimate can keep a memory alive. It can preserve and allow you to revisit whenever you’d like. It doesn’t forget. It lives forever. This immortality extends to all inanimate objects in life, whether it be a dress, a book, a tape. Objects, even when they are thrown away, can become memories for others. McElreath’s work reminds you that natural objects also hold memories. A lake you once visited as a kid with your family may evoke happiness when you visit. And your life is one of many stories that the lake keeps alive.

Initially, it sounds beautiful that times, places and even people get to live forever and have their stories told through objects. However, McElreath’s piece “We Will be Judged by What We Leave Behind” immediately made me want to write “burn everything” at the top of my will. It is an assemblage of toys and other elements that made me wonder who this person would have been that left behind such an odd story, while simultaneously making me feel self-conscious about the objects in my life and the story they would tell about me in my absence.

McElreath’s “Fred” combatted this feeling, reminding me that I would be immortal and my loved ones could remember me when I am gone. As I stared at “Fred,” I wondered who he was and what his family missed about him. I imagined he liked to work on clocks and as a child disassembled his alarm clock and was late to school the very next day. That memory would probably be a fond one for those who knew him, and it made me smile a little.

As I exited the Big Box and turned the corner to go to Hunt’s exhibit, I was startled by a pair of eyes. Well, lack of eyes. The first image on the way to his exhibit is a doll staring with hollow sockets. I stopped and stared, wondering if I should continue along the wall. As I walked along, the other dolls watched me and followed me along the way.

Once I got over the feeling of being followed, I began to look at the title of some of his pieces. The dolls were almost human. They had lives before Hunt took their picture. They were lovers, they were friends, they danced, they made mistakes. When no one was looking, they had a life of their own. As always, I encourage everyone to go, but I want to specifically encourage the person described as an “Avid Reader” on Tinder to see this exhibit and then read “The Motion of Puppets” by Keith Donahue. It’ll pair nicely.

This article was almost “If your Tinder Profile Says You’re an Avid Reader,” but not to be funny. What I meant was that this exhibit is for the storytellers, those with well-oiled imaginations, the guy who rides the bus who loses himself in a good book and almost misses his stop. It’s for those who can see beyond what’s in front of them and get lost in a story and maybe share it with others. Specifically, this exhibit is for those who can see something inanimate and see the story behind it.


BIO: Josy Jones enjoys horror movies, creepy books and late-night walks.


Image Credits:

Melancholy Babies by Ralph Hunt

Some Shit Went Down by Amber McElreath

Time of Waiting by Karen Koch


“Delivering Stories” and “Dolls as Metaphor” July 14 – August 19 Summit Artspace 140 East Market Street Thursdays & Fridays 12 – 7 pm; Saturday 12 – 5 pm BOX Gallery will also be open on Saturday, August 5 for the Akron Artwalk.