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‘Look Touch Move’ at Creative Pinellas is a feast for the senses

The collaborative exhibition by Sharon McCaman and Helen French combines dance, art and technology.
Guests interact with the installation "Nebulous" in the exhibition "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas, on view through March 27, 2022.
Guests interact with the installation "Nebulous" in the exhibition "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas, on view through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]
Published Feb. 28|Updated Feb. 28

LARGO — Going against every notion of how to behave in a gallery, the exhibition “Look Touch Move” at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas begs guests to touch the art.

Going even further, people are free to dance or get down on the floor in the collaborative exhibition. It combines Sharon McCaman’s interactive installations “Reiteration” with dancer and Creative Pinellas artist laureate Helen French’s “Reprise,” a new work she choreographed through a series of open rehearsals and workshops in the gallery. The premiere performance of “Reprise” happens in the gallery on March 10.

McCaman and French have been friends since childhood and share a dance background. Their intention was to create a space where people would engage with the exhibit through touch and movement, hence the title, “Look Touch Move.”

Sharon McCaman and Helen French at the opening reception of their collaborative exhibition, "Look Touch Move," on view at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022.
Sharon McCaman and Helen French at the opening reception of their collaborative exhibition, "Look Touch Move," on view at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

“Reiteration” is composed of five installations that use a mix of textures, materials and technology to create multi-sensory experiences. McCaman has been interested in technology since she was young, and she combines that with her passion for dance. QR codes are posted around the exhibition that take viewers to looktouchmove.com for more information about the pieces.

Three of the installations are in their third iteration.

SWASH is a soft knitted sculpture with instructions to “touch with a gentle hand” above it. When touched, the calming sound of water lapping is heard, as if one is swimming. McCaman uses the combined technology of Piezo sensors, an Arduino Mega minicontroller, a Mac Mini and computer speakers, plus velvety yarn.

Sharon McCaman's interactive installation "Swash" is included in "Look Touch Move," a collaborative exhibition with dancer Helen French, at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022.
Sharon McCaman's interactive installation "Swash" is included in "Look Touch Move," a collaborative exhibition with dancer Helen French, at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

On first glance, the framed aluminum forms that comprise Nebulous are cool in their own right. But step onto the foam floor beneath them, and they twinkle with LED lights, becoming delightfully celestial. Pressure sensors under the mat create the magical fun of illuminating them by moving around.

Sharon McCaman's installation "Nebulous" is part of the collaborative exhibition "Look Touch Move," with dancer Helen French at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022.
Sharon McCaman's installation "Nebulous" is part of the collaborative exhibition "Look Touch Move," with dancer Helen French at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

Step under Pneuma, a tulle hanging sculpture lit with light projectors, and feel transported into a dreamlike world.

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"Pneuma," an installation by artist Sharon McCaman, is on display in "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022.
"Pneuma," an installation by artist Sharon McCaman, is on display in "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

MOVE, a collection of short dance films shown on screens, was made specifically for this exhibit and the space. McCaman, French, Erin Celeste Grace, Heidi Brewer and Jessica Obiedzinski were filmed in the space, each dancing on their own, improvising their moves. Scan a QR code to access a playlist that uncannily goes with the movements, despite the dancers moving to entirely different music. McCaman has made dance films in the past, which she said were among her earliest integrations of dance and technology. The dancing becomes mesmerizing, with or without music.

The Tree is also a new installation, but plays with the concept of reiteration by using a recycled table for its base. McCaman received a large amount of fabric but was unsure of what it would become. While waiting for the material to “speak” to her, French offered her a repurposed rubber material that became the soil or sand. The result is a life-size installation, with leaves and branches cut, twisted and braided by McCaman and the “wonderful village of human beings” who assisted her.

Sharon McCaman's installation "The Tree" is part of "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022.
Sharon McCaman's installation "The Tree" is part of "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

Garden boxes surround The Tree, filled with the “soil.” Guests are invited to write down what touches or moves them or what they are looking for, place them in pods and “plant” them in the soil. They are frequently removed, and some of the paper used can be planted, as it turns into seeds.

Guests can plant their messages in pods into garden boxes surrounding Sharon McCaman's installation "The Tree," part of "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas. It's on view through March 27, 2022.
Guests can plant their messages in pods into garden boxes surrounding Sharon McCaman's installation "The Tree," part of "Look Touch Move" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas. It's on view through March 27, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

McCaman created miniature pieces of SWASH, Nebulous and The Tree that are available for sale, as are all of the installations with the exception of MOVE.

On opening night, French performed a piece around The Tree. It was sublime.

Helen French performs in relationship with Sharon McCaman's installation "The Tree" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas on Feb. 1, 2022.
Helen French performs in relationship with Sharon McCaman's installation "The Tree" at the Gallery at Creative Pinellas on Feb. 1, 2022. [ PRISCILLA WYATT | Courtesy of Creative Pinellas ]

Throughout the exhibition’s run, French has conducted open rehearsals and workshops in the gallery, exploring the relationship between dance and McCaman’s work. This invites guests to witness the process of dance and gain a better understanding of it. That work will culminate with a performance 6-8 p.m. March 10 called “Reprise,” which uses pieces she’s choreographed throughout her career. McCaman and two other dancers, Kaylee Davis and Sarah Emery, will perform with French.

As the artist laureate, French feels Creative Pinellas has been supportive of dance.

“I really feel like they are consciously saying this is a medium and a form that sometimes it doesn’t get the exposure it could or the support, and I think that’s because our support looks different,” she said. “The space requirements are different. Creative Pinellas has been really supportive of, like, what do you want to? How do you want to put this dance in this space?”

McCaman said that because she and French have been working together for so many years, they will probably use the messages from The Tree to create more art. They both agreed that the exhibition illustrates how people can bring together creative ideas born out of a mutual respect for one another.

If you go

“Look Touch Move” is on view through March 27. French’s performance, “Reprise,” is 6-8 p.m. March 10. Free. The Gallery at Creative Pinellas. Noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. 727-582-2172. RSVP at creativepinellas.org.

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