At the Kenai Art Center, 2,000 journals cover the floor, line the walls or are displayed on pedestals. Each was handcrafted with a unique design by local multimedia artist Diane Dunn.
The journals will be on display throughout January, in a solo exhibition titled “2000 Journals: Filling the Void,” beginning with an opening reception Thursday at 5 p.m. The show will also feature a performance and audience participation element, as Dunn will be present each Wednesday working at a desk in the middle of the room, writing her thoughts into a 500-page journal.
Dunn said Tuesday that she began creating the journals in November 2021.
“I think I was looking for some type of outlet for emotions and things that were going on in my life,” she said. “A lot of it is abstract, but it was a reflection of what was going on.”
The 2,000 journals on the floor sit empty — their covers, each a work of art, are the content that would have been contained within. Feelings and thoughts are represented in images instead of words.
Dunn said she could look at any of the journals and tell how she was feeling and what was happening. On Tuesday, she looked at the array of journals, pointing out a pile of stones she stacked with a friend in June, a bowhead whale vertebrae that her friend thought was a dinosaur fossil, a fern, a child’s mitten, an image of herself in Buddhist robes.
The number 2,000 is somewhat arbitrary, Dunn said. She wanted a big number, she wanted to push herself to achieve that goal artistically. A stack of 20 boxes sit in the corner, each formerly containing 100 of the journals.
“I wanted to convey the enormity of it,” Dunn said. “The big emotion that the whole thing reflects.”
As the journals were set up at the center on Tuesday, they were largely in chronological order. Those closest to the entrance were the first to be crafted, while those on the other end were the last — completed around September of last year.
That will not remain the case, as attendees are encouraged to pick up and look through the stacks of journals, and are even permitted to write in them, before returning them to any space on the gallery floor.
“It’s this kind of organic, moving piece. I’m hoping people will engage that way,” Dunn said. “I like engaging the audience in a kind of passive way. I’m not one-on-one with them, but my art is.”
In an artist statement prepared by Dunn, she writes that, during performances, one attendee at a time may enter her journaling space and read over her shoulder.
“I ask that you do so in silence,” she writes. “You the observer become the observed.”
The 500-page journal Dunn has prepared for the purpose of the performance is by far the largest of the set, with most of the others containing only 10 pages, but Dunn said she intends to fill it entirely by the end of the show.
Her journaling space sits at the center of the array of journals, accessible by a small path. That positioning is symbolic to Dunn, who said that she finds comfort surrounding herself with creativity.
A video will also be played in the gallery showing the process of Dunn cutting the pages, printing on them, and binding them. Across the 2,000 journals, Dunn wrote in her statement that she used 4,000 mono-printed covers, more than 20,000 hand-cut pages and around 1,700 yards of waxed thread.
The exhibition will be available from Jan. 5 to 28 during Kenai Art Center business hours, noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information about the exhibition or the Kenai Art Center, visit kenaiartcenter.org.