Bellevue Arts Museum’s Haven

Crafted from hand-cut and hand-dyed shoji paper, Toronto-based artist Ed Pien’s installation at the Bellevue Arts Museum is at once beautiful and unsettling. Haven is composed of three finely detailed screens encircling three tall paper tubes, or pods, suspended from the ceiling. The outermost screen is a paper cut of a torso that seems to unwind into vines, while the second depicts a flock of homing pigeons settled into a stand of trees. Wend your way between the two, and you’ll find a third: thorny brambles populated with human figures. Inside the structure, one paper tube is painted with loops of red and black barbed wire, a reference to the artist’s time in London, where he saw barbed wire (and surveillance cameras) everywhere. Another pod (glowing red from inside) seems to have arteries running through it, with openings the size and shape of your eye. The sound element, created by fellow Toronto artist Josh Thorpe, both recedes and announces itself. Clanging pots and pans mix with the noise of traffic, occasionally punctuated by explosions from Canada Day. The paper screens flicker with a layer of film projected onto them: a smear of forest, as the artist explains, “as if you were a fugitive on the run,” while a projector casts shadows of a quiet home in the woods. As I saw the work before it was fully functional, a feature not yet in place was live footage of the installation itself, which will project images of visitors on the wall. Pien’s work juxtaposes ideas of what might make one feel secure with snippets of what many people experience in search of safe harbor. Travel farther inside the installation, and you’ll find one paper tube suspended three feet off the ground. Duck up into it, look up, and you’ll see a silhouette of a night sky as it might appear in a forest. Three horizontal layers of cut paper create a lacy, branchlike patterning above. Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue, 425-519-0770, $5–$7. Ends Jan. 20, 2008.