Past Film/Video | The Box

Xan Palay

Last American Summer: a virtual exhibition (2020)


Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of summer and domestic life in two video works by Xan Palay: Last American Summer (2020), the newest project to emerge from the Wexner Center’s Film/Video Studio, and Palay’s 2009 video Housewife’s Journal. Presented here in a virtual exhibition, these works offer a poignant collection of personal experiences that reflects on the beauty of everyday moments.

Initiated well before the pandemic and ensuing shutdown, Palay had intended to complete Last American Summer as a multichannel video installation this summer and present it in a gallery space. As Palay and studio editor Alexis McCrimmon worked together remotely on final editing and postproduction in April and May 2020, the work came to signify something poetically tragic in its unforeseen new context of COVID-19 enforced isolation.

Palay, whose practice also includes sculpture and public art projects, offers a view of a world that does not exist in the same way that it did when it was being recorded. The gridded vignettes of Last American Summer capture all the sites, sounds, and experiences of the season—the pools, the concerts, the parades, the road trips and vacations, the Ohio State Fair, the bunnies!—but, despite the long, sweltering days and firefly-filled nights, summer 2020 feels more like the summer that wasn't. The three videos in Last American Summer, which total approximately 20 minutes, can be played in order or viewers can shuffle between chapters. Think of this as your favorite mixtape or playlist, a kind of greatest hits compilation of summer that is specific to nowhere yet familiar all the same.

Jennifer Lange
Curator, Film/Video Studio Program

Last American Summer (2020)

Three-channel video, approximately 20 mins.

Chapter One

This project is a collection of video clips gathered on the fly for over 10 years. They are clips that focused my attention on what the things of summer sound like, feel like, look like. Things like the summer-specific way rain and junky trees mix in the early evening sun and remind you of a path between cabins at a so-so summer camp. The way a sticky, sweaty concert on a grassy hill makes us feel still young. And the young, they get to feel old. The wind on a lake ferry, well, it’s just ridiculous. Last American Summer is a catalog of feelings you know.

Chapter Two

No one is too good for the fair. The smell of french fries. The engineering—the engineering! The snaking wires and matted grass. The hand-polished-through-the-paint metal bars that lock you in. The hay, the very short shorts, the boyfriends and girlfriends, and the blessed shade trees. The dust, the trailer hitches, and the ditches cars make in the parking fields. The fair is good and the feelings always lead to a buzzing, gritty exhaustion.

Chapter Three

I love the window seat.
I love falling into a trance.
I love the United States of America.

Xan Palay

Housewife’s Journal (2009)

Video, 11 mins.

Chronicling the fractured energy of motherhood, Housewife's Journal presents a collection of moments—from the most mundane to the most euphoric—from the artist's domestic life. Together these personal, singular moments reflect a universal experience of motherhood, where time simultaneously moves at light speed and stands still.

Last American Summer

Footage shot in
California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Ontario (Canada), New York, North Carolina, Virginia  

Sound design
Jon Fintel - Relay Recording 

Music from
Jon Fintel
Al Laus
The Biographer

Thanks to
Emilia Harned, Eliot Harned, Jennifer Lange, Alexis McCrimmon, Mike Olenick, Jon Fintel, Al Laus, Jason Shough, Walter Eckenhoff, Shane Walker, Laura Calhoon, Julie Beckman, Martha Keeley, Transit Arts, Richard Harned, Scott & Lynne Goldberg, Lara Palay, Dan Ledman, Lindsay LaSala, Heather Scott, McKinley Witt, and The Keeley Family

More about the artist

Xan Palay chevron-down chevron-up

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Xan Palay has been a visiting artist at The Ohio State University as well as the Aichi University of Education, Tokyo Glass Art Institute, and the Kanazu Forest of Creation in Japan. In 2000 she installed a public sculpture on the rooftop of SPACES gallery in Cleveland, Ohio. Her solo shows in Ohio include As Wishes Still Helped at the Columbus Museum of Art (2005), These Things Still Travel Along Wires at the Springfield Museum of Art (2006), and Run Back Home at the Ingenuity Festival, Cleveland. Palay's audio recording An Introduction to Inequalities was presented in the Sound Art Limo at the 2007 Melbourne International Arts Festival, Australia. Palay has received fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and Arts Midwest and has been an artist in residence at the Contemporary Artists Center, Massachusetts; Yaddo colony, New York (Louise Bourgeois Endowed Residency); and the Kohler Arts/Industry program in Wisconsin. She earned a BFA in sculpture from Ohio State and an MFA in sculpture from The Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College

Support for both works was provided by the Film/Video Studio at the Wexner Center for the Arts.

Greater Columbus Arts Council
Ohio Arts Council
American Electric Power Foundation
The Columbus Foundation
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nationwide Foundation

Huntington Bank
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Kaufman Development
Cardinal Health Foundation


Past Film/Video

Xan Palay