Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena Kennedy Lecture Series

On Wednesday April 13th, Adam Putnam gave the first in a series of three artist lectures relating to the Kennedy Museum’s current exhibit: Phantoms, Shadows, and Phenomena.  Putnam’s talk, Threshold Spaces and Landscapes, explored his most recent work, while giving the audience a peak into his influences and obsessions. Putnam’s talk was as sporadic as his work, which included a multitude of digressions and tangents, creating a composite of his artistic past and present.  Putnam explained that his work comes together as he gives into his urges, an explanation for the multitude of mediums that he constantly experimenting with and improving.

Untitled (Portrait), 2009

Courtesy of Meridith Monk

Although Putnam’s work shifts as influences expand and mediums inspire, reoccurring themes and objects seem to nestle themselves within much of his diverse work.  Mirrors, bursts of light, infinite regress, and dark doorways permeate his collection of work that stems from the dark and unknown.  Threshold was circled back to time and time again, as one of Putnam’s obsessions revolves around the idea of inside and outside space.  An example of this confusion between inside and outside is reflected in much of the artist M.C. Escher’s work, which revolves around mind-twisting images combining real and imaginary city and landscapes.  These works relate back to Putnam’s own work which he described as “trying to force things together that don’t belong, or shouldn’t”.

Example of M.C. Escher’s work shown by Putnam

Courtesy of

The selection of Putnam’s work displayed at the Kennedy is a series of strange short films that depict the paranormal.  Many of Putnam’s favorite objects are included in the series, as one contains mirrors positioned to form an infinite regress, star bursts of light twinkle eerily in another, and the artist himself is seen facing the camera in a bondage that covers the entirety of his face.  These are the same videos that were the backdrop to Aaron Butler’s performance during “Phantom” by the New Music Ensemble, and have an entirely different feel when they are displayed without accompanying music.  The Kennedy is the first vessel for these films, which Putnam admits to experimenting with far away from his own artistic environment to see how they will be perceived.

Two artists will follow Putnam’s talk, as Victor Vazquez speaks about his work in Mitchell Auditorium on Tuesday May 10th at 6:30 p.m., and Corinne Botz about her own on Thursday May 26th at the Ridges Auditorium at 6:30 p.m.


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