Lexie Stoia, Installation view of Corn Lodge
The architecture of Lexie Stoia’s Corn Lodge is inventive yet simple. A mass of hay is supported by a metal jungle gym, a common piece of equipment found on many a playground. A soft glow emanates from within the structure. The source of the light is inside the haystack, but is picked up by mason jars spaced throughout. The remainder of the room is unlit, the windows facing the street darkened by blinds. At first glance, the haystack looks as though it could be a hut, but there is no entrance. “As to why it’s a sort of architectural structure–human size spaces have a way of engaging all the senses. And most important, there had to be some element of the unknown with the object/structure. I wanted people to wonder why it lit up, what was going on inside the dome, what’s that droning sound, ‘why can’t I go inside?’” Stoia enhances the feeling of wonder by adding meditative songs, woven floor mats, and guiding pamphlets for visitors upon entering the space.
Lexie Stoia, Detail of Corn Lodge
In her statement, Stoia writes that the aim of the exhibit is to guide viewers through different seasons of the year with self-hypnosis scripts, based on the life cycle of corn. To support the ideas in her art practice, Stoia has created the narrative of a fictional community, The Way Out, as the backdrop for several pieces, including her exhibition Corn Meditations. She says, “It’s a place for me to put my ideas about the contemporary world and confuse them a bit with a loose narrative about a new age group. Like a lot of people, I am both drawn to but skeptical of the occult and so I use my art as a way to deepen my understanding.” She created the book titled Corn Meditations to accompany the exhibit itself. The book consists of passages and poems in an effort to connect the reader to the exhibit, but also to amplify the distortion of what is fact and fiction. One such piece, titled “Cultivating,” reads as follows:
“Cultivating our little corn plants requires as much physical work–removing competing weeds–as mental work–removing psychic weeds. Through altering our state of consciousness, we can release our brain’s own drugs, a mental fertilizer for the corn souls.
In the shade
Of the corn
Lexie Stoia, Corn Meditations books
Interestingly, Stoia also wrote that she is interested in art that activates and deactivates the senses, “There is a universality in the body and in the senses that I like to play with. Horror movies, utopian movements, The Twilight Zone, and tiny architecture get mixed in. But at the root of it, making art is a way to prevent boredom and stagnation.” Inarguably, notes of the horror genre are present in harvest images. Stoia’s work hearkens to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, a short story adapted into a play, which ends in blood sacrifice for the good of the harvest. The chilling climactic scene involves the townsfolk closing in on the “winner” and chanting “Harvest time, harvest time!” as they prepare to stone her to ensure a plenty of corn.
Despite the varying takes on corn harvest as it is represented on stage and in stories, Stoia’s work attempts to encompass many ideas and feelings with her sculpture and in her book. Words brought to life in the installation include “playful, idealistic but sinister.” Through Corn Meditations, Stoia explores each by appealing to senses as well as sensory memory and association. The experience is all at once peaceful, eerie, still, but teeming with energy.