Skip to content
Recess homepage


White Sands

Laura Vitale

a photo of hand
a photo of hand

Due to the process-based nature of the Session program, this project will undergo constant modifications; the features of this page provide accruing information on the project’s developments.

July 11–September 15, 2012

Visitor info
To make an appointment, please sign up no later than 10 am the same day at

Read our safety guideline

On July 11, 2012 Laura Vitale will begin work on White Sands, as part of Recess’s signature program, Session. Session invites artists to use Recess’s public space as studio, exhibition venue and grounds for experimentation. For White Sands, Vitale will create a research laboratory for testing the audio-visual properties and material behaviors of gypsum plaster. Vitale will also work with collaborators and interested visitors to undertake these investigations through various methods of performance and recording.

The artist will develop parallel inquiries that intersect—conceptually and spatially— sometimes to the point of being indistinguishable. The first is an art historical and scientific investigation of gypsum; the second is a chaotic material exploration of Plaster of Paris. Her “findings” will navigate the tensions between systematic and subjective knowledge, between play and display.

In anticipation of her time at Recess, Vitale traveled to New Mexico’s White Sands National Monument, which sits on the world’s largest table of gypsum crystals. Within Recess, she will map her experience there by creating miniature replicas of the geology around White Sands National Monument. Photo, video, audio and other ephemera collected at White Sands will become source material for new experiments and conclusions.

When plaster is submerged in water, it creates resonant tones and rhythms that Vitale will amplify and modify with the use of an underwater microphone. The artist will install a storefront recording booth to capture a confluence of human and plaster voices. Around the amassed White Sands material, the artist will arrange large tanks of water for use as a testing ground and a film shoot location. Vitale will employ tools and materials normally associated with research science, such as carbon dioxide, sound lenses, pipettes, hydrophones, and contact microphones. In an effort to locate this material and find its voice, the artist will enter a larger, less empirical field of sound and communication. In her own words, “Language is a technology for abstracting reality. Voice is not abstract.”

Session invites artists to use Recess’s public platform to combine productive studio space with dynamic exhibition opportunities. Sessions remain open to the public from the first day of the artist’s project through the last, encouraging sustained dialogue between artists and audiences. Due to the process-based nature of Session, projects undergo constant revision and the above proposal is subject to change.

About the artist

Laura Vitale

Laura Vitale’s work orients around sound, also utilizing video, drawing, photography, sculpture, and performance. She graduated with an MFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in May 2012, and holds a BA in Visual Art from Brown University, 2007. She has made commissioned installations and performances for WNYC and Issue Project Room, been a Van Lier Fellow at Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, and received a New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Grant. In fall of 2012, she will perform a New Programming Commission for Triple Canopy. In 2009, Vitale co-founded We Are Your Friends, a community choral group that celebrates the untrained voice.



See all

Opens March 7, 2024

Lavendra/Recovery Project

E. Jane

fueled by a reverence for the artistic legacy of Black American R&B divas

November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024

Session & Assembly Collaboration: BARRO

Marcela Torres and Assembly

Torres in collaboration with Assembly will explore the history of New York through its soil and natural clay deposits.

September 14–November 10, 2023

Conjuring the Past, Marking the Present: Ancestral Healing Through Shamanic Reiki, Tattoo, and Sound

KING COBRA and Hue Hallums

Combining the sacred power of tattoo and shamanic reiki healing during this year's harvest and initiation season.