Caught by the River

There is a Volcano Behind My House

15th May 2021

Available to view online now, and opening in person from 6 June, artist Ilana Halperin has created a new body of work for Mount Stuart House, inspired by the geology of the Isle of Bute.

Pseudomorph Sisters, 2019.

Situated throughout the building, specially commissioned sculptures and watercolours reference ‘immigrant’ minerals that form the objects and architecture of the neo-gothic house. 

Halperin’s work examines the relationships between rocks and minerals, between family and the deep time of the Earth. The geologic phenomena of the island becomes the backdrop to the exhibition: the extinct volcano behind her island home, the title.

Field Studies (from Kilchattan Bay to Hawk’s Neb), 2019.

Halperin describes the exhibition as “a constellation, combining personal, poetic and corporeal responses to the house and island”, explaining: “When I made these works before the pandemic, I had been imagining and trying to conjure more expansive ways of thinking about my own family, from very deep time family lines drawn in the calcium carbonate of our teeth and bones, to more immediate alternative families based not only on blood, but on how we choose each other, how we love each other, who and how we support one another”.

“The first time I visited Mount Stuart, many years ago, I was struck by the deep geologic nature of the house, from the core samples of marble which travelled up from Sicily – immigrant rocks settled in their new home; to the petrified seas found in the fossil rich limestone of the vast stairwell in the Great Hall. It was as if the house itself was an Anthropocene phenomena, among the many geologic wonders one could encounter on the island”.  

Field Studies (from Kilchattan Bay to Hawk’s Neb), 2019.

As an immigrant herself, a New Yorker who lives and works in Scotland, Halperin views her own movements as a fleeting continuation of a much older migratory tradition, one also enacted by her relatives who fled during seismic waves of pogroms. Her work is an evolving embodiment of geologic and human migration and change.

Available to view virtually now, There is a Volcano Behind My House runs, in-person, from 6 June to 15 August 2021. An accompanying audio field guide will be made available next month as part of Glasgow International Festival.

Online events will also take place this summer — the first, an artist talk with a panel of geologists, and the second, the artist in conversation with Sophie Crichton Stuart — with further details to be announced nearer the time.

More information is available here.

All artworks pictured by Ilana Halperin, with photos by Alan Dimmick. Courtesy of the artist and Patricia Fleming, Glasgow.