Have you seen the rainbow bridge in DeKalb? Area artists showcase work as part of global exhibition

Seven artists feature work in DeKalb for 2023 Terrain Biennial, a global public arts festival that runs through Nov. 15

A student walks by the piece “The Day of the Triffids, 1963” by Rebecca Griffith Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, outside the Northern Illinois University School of Art and Design, Visual Arts Building. The piece is part of the Terrain Biennial 2023, a countrywide exhibit where artists display their work outside of homes and building around town.

DeKALB – A rainbow bridge, a piece of concrete slab and material excavated from VHS cassettes.

Have you seen these three exhibits around town? They’re all part of a larger public arts festival, dubbed Terrain Biennial, that concludes Nov. 15 and brings contemporary art to new and underserved audiences worldwide.

Many of the exhibits are showcased on Northern Illinois University campus, part of the DeKalb-centric contributions of seven local artists to the Terrain exhibition. Terrain Biennial has art displays across the globe, built by artists from every aspect of life for “anyone who walks, rolls, skips or wanders by to discover,” its website says.

“I love the Terrain Exhibition because it brings art to the community in such a unique way,” said Elmhurst resident Rebecca Griffith said. “There’s just something so special about artists all over Chicago, Illinois and beyond coming together at a certain time. We become a larger community. I hope people enjoy it for its visual aspects. … I love the idea of people being able to watch the artwork age throughout time. Being outside, it looks a lot different today than it did when we installed it.”

Griffith excavated material from VHS cassettes to create an art installation that’s meant to open up discussion on how information is processed, nostalgia and memory. Her piece, “The Day of the Triffids, 1963″ was inspired by her time growing up in the 1990s inside the video store her mother owned, according to the exhibit’s notes. “The Day of the Triffids, 1963″ is a science fiction horror film about a meteor shower which leaves most of the planet’s population blind, followed by an apocalypse where Earth is invaded by extraterrestrial plants. The film is about survivor’s learning to live in a hostile and new environment.

Griffith said she faced her share of challenges trying to bring her creation to life. But she managed to handle issues that arose by taking inspiration from an unlikely source.

“Typically, [the VHS tape] exists out in the open,” she said. “I adhere it with clear tape. That’s traditionally how you would fix a VHS tape. So having that challenge of how is this going to be able to stay outside for a long time was something I really thought about. So, I looked to office culture and the kind of things I remember my mother using. Laminating was the obvious choice.”

The piece “The Day of the Triffids, 1963” by Rebecca Griffith Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, outside the Northern Illinois University School of Art and Design, Visual Arts Building. The piece is part of the Terrain Biennial 2023, a countrywide exhibit where artists display their work outside of homes and building around town.

John Siblik, associate professor of art at Northern Illinois University, said he’s glad he decided to take part in the initiative. He said it brings great significance to him to participate.

“Not only is my work about the environment and the importance of sustaining the environment and our natural resources but from an aesthetic standpoint, most of my sculptures are in essence three-dimensional drawings,” Siblik said. “To have them come to being as three-dimensional form on the landscape is really the aesthetic beauty for me that comes about with these pieces is creating what I think of as these three-dimensional images on the landscape. So, it’s a way for me to be a part of the very rich landscape tradition within art. So, that gives me a great deal of pride.”

Siblik installed “Rainbow Bridge” that can be seen at 105 W. Lincoln Highway, displayed at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway. Rainbow Bridge is a 3D celebration of Siblik’s daughter, and his mother who died this spring, according to Terrain Biennial.

A piece called “Rainbow Bridge” by John Siblik Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, on the northwest corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway in DeKalb. The piece is part of the Terrain Biennial 2023, a countrywide exhibit where artists display their work outside of homes and building around town.

Siblik said he was intrigued seeing the works of other artists who are participating in the larger public arts festival.

“It’s really kind of amazing when you start looking at sculptures from India, England and all kinds of places in the United States,” he said. “To think that you can do an exhibit around the globe simultaneously, and it’s all volunteer help. The people who are investing this amount of time in making and sharing is an amazing part of the story, as well.”

Marisol Cervantes, NIU foundations instructor, said she’s excited to have her work, “Its Underneath Concrete Now,” featured in the exhibit.

“It feels great. It’s really nice, too, to have something out on display not only for faculty and staff of NIU but also all of DeKalb and people just driving to the university since it’s placed right outside in front of the art building,” Cervantes said.

Cervantes is the creator behind the abstract concrete slabs that linger in the grass near the NIU School of Art and Design building.

Cervantes challenges anyone who is perusing the artwork in the Terrain Exhibit to expand their definition of art.

“I hope that viewers are able to at first see that it’s actually an art piece and not a concrete slab sticking out of the grass because I did want it to be camouflaged,” Cervantes said. “A lot of my work, especially when it comes to sculpture, I leave it as a natural tone so it mimics something that’s growing out of the ground or something that’s coming up off the ground or that it looks exactly like concrete. So, I’m hoping that, at first, it plays with the understanding of what it is art and what is naturally there. So, I think that I really want people to investigate it, look at it and also just take the time to look at things for a long time and be able to draw things from the natural sources that we do.”

Have a Question about this Daily Chronicle article?