Dust and Distance

St. Louis-based artist Jill Downen turned the UNT Art Gallery into a place for people to reflect and think this spring.

She put 1,500 pounds of plaster on the ground, covering most of the floor. She placed one solid piece across the middle of the plaster, reflecting a section of the ceiling. Blue strings — called plumb lines, which measure the true angle of the walls — ran across the room, providing visual signs and metaphors regarding distance and intersection.

She planned her work, called Dust and Distance, for more than a year and installed it in eight days with the help of six students and volunteers.

Downen, a 2010 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellow who is represented by the Bruno David Gallery, says she wanted to create an open-ended conversation between the viewer and the art.

“I hope they experienced an alteration in their perception — a slowing of time, quietness and stillness,” she says. “The installation uses my visual-spatial language. The art has power to speak without words.”


Watch a time lapse video and hear the artist's commentary about the installation.

UNT Art Gallery Director Tracee Robertson says the gallery selected Downen for an exhibition after she spoke to 2-D design students last year.

“Downen has a clarity of vision, and her work contains a conceptual, visual and physical depth that is important in sculpture,” Robertson says.

Watch a time-lapse video of the installation of Downen’s Dust and Distance.