Renee Cinderhouse: Installation artist

Michael Bushnell
Northeast News

Renee Cinderhouse, a Northeast artist originally from the Boston, Cape Cod area, began her college career at Bennington College in Vermont. Internal changes at the school prompted a shift in direction for Cinderhouse.

This led her to the four corners of the continental 48 states via the nation’s network of two-lane highways, all while driving a U-Haul truck. Cinderhouse’s destination choices routed her through National Parks.

Those two-lane, U-Haul travels allowed Cinderhouse to dramatically increase her exposure to the expanse of the natural world, while building a sizable “texture library” made up of photographs of various natural scenes encountered in her coast to coast travels.

“That’s kind of a side effect of traveling,” she said. “It’s me being fascinated by the scope of the natural world so I literally took pictures of everything.”

Cinderhouse knew she wanted to finish her Art Degree, so she settled in Kansas City in 1998 with the thought of getting it done and, in her words, “getting the hell out.”

Fate has a way of intervening and Kansas City has been her home ever since.

“The artist culture here in Kansas City really blew me away,” she said.

She re-connected with her now husband Hector Casanova, another Bennington College transplant who found his way to Kansas City and now teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute.

The couple then settled in the Pendleton Heights neighborhood from the West Bottoms in 2008.

Cinderhouse said she sees the evolution of the Historic Northeast into an artist’s haven and how the area’s residents embrace the artists that inhabit it.

“We were just focused on keeping the visibility of the neighborhood on the front burner” Cinderhouse said. “Artists play a very dominant role in neighborhood development and we just really wanted to bring that to Pendleton Heights”.

Cinderhouse is an installation artist. She also works with photography. Location factors heavily into her work, and her artwork often embraces the environment around her.

Cinderhouse’s love of art was ignited at a very young age by her father. As she grew older, her affinity for three-dimensional art inspired her to begin sculpting in clay and plaster. Her inspirations include photographers Gregory Crewdson and Eugenio Recuenco, both whom use their art to craft a narrative.

“As an installation artist, I work with a variety of textures and fabrics, all related to the human condition and how it relates to the specific location or piece I’m working on at the time,” she said. “The strongest voice you have is to say it with your artwork.”

Her current project is a collaboration with the Kansas City Museum that involves the placement of four art time capsules that will be hidden behind various walls of the museum, one on each floor. One art capsule will actually be located in an original Long family wall-safe.

This two-stage project, titled WITNESS, will be ongoing until the Museum’s re-opening in 2020.

The art time capsules incorporate salvaged materials from Corinthian Hall’s demolition and were partially influenced by some artifacts accidentally left behind by the Long family, including a yardstick found behind a wall, a woman’s hair comb, and some long-lost museum artifacts discovered during the current renovation project.

For Cinderhouse, the project is like being able to slip a message in a bottle to be discovered at some point in time in the future.
“This was an opportunity to store some history for future generations,” she said.

The big reveal however, according to Cinderhouse, will be left to future generations.

She was enthusiastic to share the magnitude of the Museum’s current renovation project and what it means to not only the Historic Northeast community, but to Kansas City as a whole.

“The museum project is a game-changer,” she said. “The breadth and extent of the collections and the potential the Museum has for being a regional arts hub is tremendous. I’m just excited to have the opportunity to curate with their team and create new conversations that tell new histories that will reach new audiences with those conversations.”

For more information on Cinderhouse and to view her work, please visit reneecinderhouse.com.

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