Catalogs

September 27, 2011 Comments Off

Extreme Materials

Artists repurpose everyday materials to create beautiful, challenging & thought-provoking art.
  1. Acknowledgments

    We would like to extend special thanks to the generous underwriters who helped make this exhibition possible: M&T Bank, MVP Health Care, the Gallery Council of the Memorial Art Gallery, and an anonymous donor.

    Logos of M&T Bank, MVP Healthcare and the Gallery Council

    We would also like to acknowledge Mike Jones, Mike Osadciw, and Lori Packer of the University of Rochester for their assistance is designing this web-based catalogue.

    To all the artists, collectors, and dealers who have played such an enormous role in bringing Extreme Materials 2 to fruition: we couldn’t have done it without you!

    And finally, we owe our deep appreciation to the creative and hard-working staff of the Memorial Art Gallery. Every department played a crucial role in making this exhibition a reality.

    Grant Holcomb
    The Mary W. and Donald R. Clark Director

    Marie Via
    Director of Exhibitions
  2. Ryan Alexiev

    Sucramentum, 2008
    Breakfast cereal on wood panel
    60 x 72 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Drawing upon the tradition of Byzantine mosaics, Ryan Alexiev uses breakfast cereal to recreate a portion of a 6th-century panel from the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. In the time of Emperor Justinian (the crowned figure at the far left), when church and state were effectively one, the theocracy was an omnipotent and controlling presence. Many feel that consumerism has become the new religion, with powerful corporate agricultural interests wielding once unheard-of power. More than 400 kinds of breakfast cereal are available today, promoting the illusion of unlimited choice, albeit from nearly identical products.

    Depiction of Justinian I from a Byzantine mosaic, Church of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy Justinian I depicted on the famous Byzantine mosaics of the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.

    Artist's website
  3. Jennifer Angus

    Creature Comforts, 2011
    Insects, wax and mixed media
    96 x 312 x 256 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Jennifer Angus’ early training as a textile designer is clear from the moment you walk into one of her room-sized installations in which the “wallpaper” is composed of thousands of insects. She is interested in the tension generated when we are simultaneously attracted to the beautiful patterns and repulsed by the legions of tiny creatures. Long fascinated by the diversity and sheer numbers of insects on the planet, the artist hopes to call attention to the important role they play in maintaining the ecosystem. Noting that virtually every insect on the endangered species list is there because of loss of habitat, rather than over-collecting, Angus makes it a point to work with reputable specimen dealers and to re-use her insects many times.

    Several references to Rochester history are embedded in Creature Comforts, including spices and seed pods in one of the small houses in the center of the room, alluding to both the Flour City and the Flower City. Inside the other house are tintypes and photographs that signify the importance of George Eastman and Kodak in our community. A “sea monster” on the back wall hints at the importance of both the Genesee River and Lake Ontario in Rochester’s development.

    Artist's website
  4. Adriana Bertini

    Gabrielle, 2006
    Condoms and fabric
    64 x 24 x 10 in.

    Private collection

    An artist and activist from the age of 14, Adriana Bertini was inspired to raise AIDS awareness after working with HIV-positive children in Africa and her native Brazil. Condoms are her medium of choice and she has developed special methods of dying, cutting, collaging, fusing and sewing them. By appealing to our sense of humor and love of beauty, Bertini aims to demystify and destigmatize condoms, the primary vehicle for stopping the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. This sensuous nightgown, made from 2,920 condoms that failed quality control tests, is based on a 1930s design by Coco Chanel and required 125 hours to create.

    Dresses from Bertini's Condom Couture series
    More dresses from Adriana Bertini's Condom Couture series

    Artist's website
  5. Elaine Bradford

    Procyon besheret, 2008
    Taxidermied animals and crochet fiber
    16 x 48 x 36 in.

    Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace Gallery, Houston, Texas

    Having learned to crochet from her grandmother, Elaine Bradford associates the practice with family, comfort, and warmth. When she found herself devoting hours to crocheting second skins for objects that have no practical need for warmth, she recognized it as an act of “absurd domesticity.” Soon she was creating whole new species from taxidermied animals, freaks of nature with their own complex histories and taxonomies, all swaddled in colorful costumes that accentuated their strangeness. It was “as though Grandma was playing mad scientist,” she says, “reincarnating animals into a life of bizarre coziness, nurturing them into oddity.” The Procyon besheret seen here was originally part of a larger installation called The Museum of Unnatural History.

    Artist's website
  6. Suzanne Broughel

    40 Acres of Bandaids (Every Shade of Bandaid for Sale Within 40 Acres of the African Burial Ground, NYC), 2003
    Adhesive bandages and fabric
    36 x 36 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Between 1690 and 1795, approximately 20,000 African slaves were buried in a six-acre plot north of Wall Street in New York City. The area was developed in the early 19th century but only in the early 1990s was the African Burial Ground rediscovered and established as a National Historic Landmark. Suzanne Broughel canvassed drugstores in the 40-acre area surrounding the site and bought every shade of adhesive bandage available; she found 22 light-to-medium tones and one dark brown shade. By using these to create a “black hole” at the center of her mosaic of skin colors, she references not only the fate of those consigned to the unmarked graves in lower Manhattan, but also the ways in which African-American consumers have often been disregarded by the manufacturing industry.

    Artist's website
  7. Dave Cole

    Breastplate No.6 (After Oglala Sioux tribe, circa 1891), 2006
    Lead and American .223 military ammunition
    31 x 15 x 1 in.

    Courtesy of the artist and DODGE gallery, New York

    Dave Cole is interested in Native American breastplates as a reflection of cultural conflict. The originals he studied in museum collections were made of materials related to the conquest of indigenous people: leather resulting from the wholesale removal of the buffalo, bones of the European cattle brought over to replace them, and glass trade beads manufactured in Europe. Adhering to traditional designs, he has imagined a world where past and future collide by using “the relics of contemporary cultural conflict,” including assault rifle bullet casings and other armaments.

    traditional Sioux breastplate
    Traditional Sioux breastplate

    Artist's website
  8. Sally Curcio

    Garden of Earthly Delights, 2008
    Mixed media
    6 x 12 x 12 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Part Jetsons, part snow-globe, part Biosphere, the worlds Sally Curcio creates in her Bubble series seem both strange and familiar. The Garden of Earthly Delights calls to mind a public park of the future or of some other galaxy, populated with tiny fringed and beaded creatures. They wander among curvaceous monuments and ear-shaped architectural fantasies, and some wade in miniature reflecting pools. By enclosing them in a glass bubble, the artist suggests a fragile world in need of protection or a specimen preserved for posterity. This particular work gives a 3-D nod to the contemporary Japanese “Super Flat” imagery made popular by Takashi Murakami.

    Chaos by Takashi Murakami Takashi Murakami, Chaos, 1999, acrylic on canvas.

    Artist's website
  9. William Kenneth Daw

    Rainbowl, 2010
    Dry dog food and silicone
    25-1/4 x 25-1/4 in.

    Collection of the artist

    In the summer of 2004, Ken Daw challenged himself “to find a creative way to feed as many of my four-legged friends as possible, while inspiring the public to see the rainbow of beauty in the everyday objects that surround us.” Consequently, he founded Pawlick Studios, through which he sells his dog food mosaics to raise funds for animal shelters and promote pet adoption awareness.

    Artist's website
  10. Tom Deininger

    The Wave, 2011
    Mixed media
    60 x 72 in.

    Collection Robert and Lynn Patron

    Rhode Island artist Tom Deininger created this work especially for the Extreme Materials 2 exhibition. An avid surfer, he is appalled at the shocking amount of waste that pollutes our oceans, posing danger to sea-life and humans alike. Deininger is a self-professed “visual slut” stimulated by everything from NASCAR smash-ups to Hubble images to junk lying in the street. He describes the evolution of his work as a series of accidental discoveries made while working on something else. These works demand that viewers participate by seeking out the one perspective from which the assemblage of castoff toys and other random detritus resolves into a recognizable image.

    Artist's website
  11. Marc Dennis

    Left: Coyote Juggles His Eyes, 2007
    Right: Coyote Fools Rabbit, 2007
    Coyote skull, enamel, and glycerin ink
    Each 3 x 8 x 3 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Known primarily for his large and voluptuous still life paintings, Marc Dennis has recently been experimenting with other media. The titles of his painted skulls grew out of campfire story-telling sessions with his Lakota friends when he lived on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1991. His tales revolved around an invented world in which native people painted the bones of their dead with symbols of the conquering European culture. This brought to mind the blue and white patterns of Dutch Delftware pottery. Dennis retained the classic colors and selected North American nature motifs (acorns and leaves) to decorate the skulls of coyotes, the tricksters of the animal world, suggesting a seamless continuity with an untainted past.

    A Delftware plate
    A Delftware plate

    Artist's website
  12. Brian Dettmer

    Organized Knowledge in Story and Picture, 2010
    Altered set of encyclopedias
    22-1/4 x 53 x 2-1/2 in.

    Collection of Paul Scialla

    Like an archaeologist, Brian Dettmer excavates words and images from old books. After sealing the edges of a book together, he cuts into the surface and begins dissecting the volume one page at a time. Using knives, tweezers, and surgical tools, Dettmer reveals pictures and phrases that create new stories in juxtaposition. Nothing is moved or added, only taken away, and the artist is never exactly sure what he will unearth.

    Artist's website
  13. Angela Ellsworth

    Seer Bonnet XVI, 2010–11
    16,194 pearl corsage pins, steel, and fabric
    29 x 12-1/2 x 13-1/2 in.

    Courtesy of the artist and Lisa Sette Gallery, Scottsdale, Arizona

    Although she comes from a Mormon family, Angela Ellsworth has rejected that tradition as “restricted and oppressive” for women. The sunbonnets worn by 19th-century Mormon women were the inspiration for her ongoing Seer Bonnet series, which originally consisted of a dozen prickly hats, one for each wife of her great-great-grandfather, a Mormon prophet. The round patterns in the surface design refer to the holes in “seer stones” used by early church leaders to receive revelations from God. For Ellsworth, “The circles are my idea of giving the women wearing the bonnets their own visions.” She counters the forced communal domesticity of Mormon family life by recruiting volunteers to help with the laborious and sometimes painful process of pushing thousands of floral pins through fabric.

    Seer stone
    Seer stone used by Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon church. Courtesy Wilford Wood Museum.

    Artist's website
  14. Rosemarie Fiore

    Firework Drawing #9, 2009
    Lit firework residue on Fabriano paper
    82-1/2 x 66-3/4 in.

    Courtesy Priska C. Juschka Fine Art, New York, New York

    “Fireworks are an aggressive medium,” says Rosemarie Fiore. Her pyrotechnic drawings are a heady combination of chaos and control. The colors are the product of fireworks’ tinted smoke, which is composed of fine particles of organic dyes. She creates the marks in two ways: by attaching the smoldering firework to a long stick and dragging it across heavy paper, or by covering it with a metal can and pushing it around the surface in fits and starts. The results are a physical record of the life and death of an explosion. Fiore has described her interaction with her materials as “a dance,” calling to mind the rituals of action painters like Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis. Rosemarie Fiore at work
    Rosemarie Fiore at work

    Rosemarie Fiore at work

    Artist's website
  15. Mary Giehl

    Crystal Dress, 2009
    Alum, plastic drawer liner, and monofilament
    15 1/2 x 8 x 15 in.

    Collection of the artist

    As a nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit, Mary Giehl was deeply affected by the victims of child abuse placed in her care. When she became a full-time artist, the victimization of the innocent became her primary theme. “I am interested in creating work that educates, agitates, and troubles the audience,” she says. For her Crystal series, Giehl “grows” small garments from alum crystals over an extended period of time. They can be seen as a metaphor for the protective shields abused children are forced to develop, while the light glowing from within is a hopeful sign that the purity of the mistreated has survived at the deepest level.

    Artist's website
  16. Mary Giehl

    Crystal Vest, 2009
    Alum, plastic drawer liner, and monofilament
    15 x 11 x 11 in.

    Collection of the artist
  17. Nemo Gould

    Centipede, 2008
    Bundt cake pans, bicycle brake levers, found objects, and cold cathode tubes
    30 x 51 x 14 in.

    Collection of the artist

    In Nemo Gould’s view, “A found object is just a familiar thing seen as though for the first time.”

    In 2010, a stint as artist-in-residence at the San Francisco dump allowed him to add anything he found to his massive store of post-consumer waste products, which includes things like old vacuum cleaners, bicycle parts, broken musical instruments, furniture fragments, and kitchen utensils. From these and other humble materials, he fashions kinetic sculptures, robots, and lighted pieces like Centipede. Gould cites science fiction movies and stop-motion animation as inspirations, but admits that many of his creatures involve a degree of self-portraiture. “At a glance they seem menacing,” he says, “but if you linger a bit they reveal themselves to be harmless, or even a bit pitiful.”

    Artist's website
  18. John D. Greene

    Untitled, ca. 1993
    Plaster-infused marble, steel wool, wood, and lead
    78 x 11 x 9 in.

    Collection of the artist

    John Greene’s passion for texture links his figural sculptures with the abstract paintings for which he is perhaps better known. Evoking mummies or marionettes, these semi-human forms are both frightening and alluring. Each begins as a mass of steel wool soaked in Hydrocal, a combination of Plaster of Paris and cement. Greene shapes it around an armature, sprays it heavily with water, and wraps it in plastic saved from his dry-cleaning. Here the rusting process is allowed to take over until it has achieved the desired patina, at which point it is stabilized with wax or shellac. “Materials that age, rust, decay and change are, for me, the elements of birth and survival,” says the artist.
  19. Phyllis Hackleman

    ‘49ers (Virgin, UT), 2008
    Inkjet print on used coffee filters
    8 x 8 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Rochesterian Phyllis Hackleman lost her printing studio when the Kodak Darkroom closed. She had resisted the shift to digital photography but became increasingly desperate to find a way to continue producing images. At about that same time, she saw an artist demonstrating how she ran coffee filters through a Xerox machine to copy patterns onto them for the garments she was making. Necessity being the mother of invention, Hackleman tried putting filters through her ink-jet printer. Eventually she began selecting used filters based on the way the staining would enhance a particular image. The resulting photographs suggest historical albumen prints or Japanese woodblock prints.
  20. Phyllis Hackleman

    Christmas Rose (Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA), 2008
    Inkjet print on used coffee filter
    8 x 8 in.

    Collection of the artist
  21. Phyllis Hackleman

    Oregon Inlet (Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Outer Banks, NC), 2008
    Inkjet print on used coffee filters
    8 x 8 in.

    Collection of the artist
  22. Phyllis Hackleman

    Thistles (Zion National Park, UT), 2008
    Inkjet print on used coffee filters
    8 x 8 in.

    Collection of the artist
  23. Phyllis Hackleman

    Twisted Pine (Capitol Reef National Park, UT), 2008
    Inkjet print on used coffee filters
    8 x 8 in.

    Collection of the artist
  24. Phyllis Hackleman

    Water Lilies (Route 66 Museum, Clinton, OK), 2008
    Inkjet print on used coffee filters
    8 x 8 in.

    Collection of the artist
  25. Laurie Hassold

    Post-Extinction Fossil Grotto, 2010
    Bones and mixed media
    79 x 39 x 30 in.

    Courtesy of the artist

    Laurie Hassold is fascinated with the tension between art and science, beauty and horror. These dual visions of the world were fostered by two childhood influences: living in a home her mother decorated with flocked wallpaper, gilt mirrors, and crystal chandeliers and, conversely, being allowed to watch her father perform surgery. The hybrid beasts that spring from her imagination are a combination of the baroque and the gothic. They are, Hassold says, “the future fossils of creatures that have adapted to an evolution of impurity, gathering themselves together in the aftermath of human occupation.”

    Artist's website
  26. Danielle Julian Norton

    Clear, 2011
    Neutrogena soap
    84 x 192 x 156 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Like many of the artists in Extreme Materials 2, Danielle Julian Norton has discovered that a mundane object multiplied by dozens or thousands has the potential to become poetic. By using Neutrogena soap as the literal building blocks of her sculptures, she creates a multi-sensory experience for gallery visitors. The translucence of the soap transforms participants into shape-shifting silhouettes when viewed from outside the structure. Neutrogena’s distinctive amber color and unique scent are a powerful aide-memoire, especially for women, who may find themselves drifting back to a time in their adolescence when daily beauty rituals first became part of their lives.

    Sponsored by Neutrogena.

    Artist's website
  27. Theo Kamecke

    Pharoah’s Secret, 1995
    Electronic circuitry
    46 x 21 x 27 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Theo Kamecke updates traditional marquetry, an art form that became popular in 16th-century Italy, by using electronic circuitry instead of wood or stone veneers. He began stockpiling circuit boards in the 1960s and ‘70s, when many still showed the irregularities of being made by hand. Circuit boards from that period, before today’s miniaturization techniques were available, were also large enough to show their grids and patterns off to beautiful advantage. The results are retro-futuristic designs that summon up visions of both ancient Egypt and outer space.

    Traditional Italian wood marquetry
    Traditional Italian wood marquetry

    Egyptian hieroglyphics
    Egyptian hieroglyphics

    Artist's website
  28. Mark Khaisman

    Lydmila, 2009
    Packing tape on Plexiglas with steel light box
    48 x 36 x 6 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Mark Khaisman’s previous life as an architect and stained glass designer is evident in his current work, which he describes as “a conversation with light.” Here, working within the confines of the available colors and widths of commercial packing tape, he transforms a banal material into a tender portrait of his mother. Affixing the tape to a sheet of Plexiglas and lighting it from behind produces the illusion of depth and shadow. The result, visible only when illuminated, becomes a meditation on the fragile and temporary nature of human existence.

    Artist's website
  29. Richard Klein

    Bag 1, 2010
    Ashtrays, eyeglasses, found glass objects, mirrors, and brass
    20 1/2 x 15 x 9 in.

    Courtesy of the artist and Caren Golden Fine Art, New York, New York

    In the mid-90s, Richard Klein found himself disillusioned with object-making in a culture that was obsessed with materiality. In response, he began working exclusively with found objects and cast-offs. Glass objects were among his favorites because they allowed him to play with shadows, refracted light, and the illusion of space—and were readily available at the Goodwill and flea markets. Bag 1 is composed primarily of eyeglass lenses but the ashtrays that reference locations in New England allow the artist to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for establishments and habits that are disappearing from the American scene. Klein calls himself “a Puritan when it comes to color,” adding only a few hints of green to break up the field of glistening transparency.

    Artist's website
  30. Nick Kozak

    Ecosystem, 2011
    Plastic soup spoons
    96 x 222 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Nick Kozak began using mass-produced objects in his work when he lived in Taiwan after graduating from SUNY New Paltz. He became attuned to the mathematical beauty of physical uniformity and the majesty that the humblest items take on when gathered in great numbers. Here, plastic Chinese soup spoons are transformed into a landscape that sprouts above and teems with other activity below. Kozak suggests that repetition of these ordinary bits and pieces of daily life induces a contemplative mood, “like Buddhist monks chanting mantra and finding solace in the selfless echo.”

    detail of Ecosystem by Nick Kozak
    detail

    Artist's Website
  31. Cal Lane

    Crude Girl, 2007
    Plasma-cut steel can
    17-1/4 x 13-1/4 in.

    Courtesy of Art Mûr, Montréal, Canada

    Cal Lane enjoys the contrariness of delicate images on a rigid steel surface. A certified industrial welder, she has turned to the plasma torch for her recent work, transforming oil drums, shovels, wheelbarrows, and the interior of a submarine into filigree. These five works are from her Sweet Crude series, a meditation on the politics of oil. Cutting the seams of small oil cans and then flattening them produces a cross shape, into which she cuts imagery that highlights the interconnectedness of oil, war, and religion.

    Cal Lane at work
    Cal Lane at work

    Artist's website
  32. Cal Lane

    Crude J, 2007
    Plasma-cut steel can
    17-1/4 x 13-1/4 in.

    Courtesy of Art Mûr, Montréal, Canada
  33. Cal Lane

    Crude Women, 2007
    Plasma-cut steel can
    17-1/4 x 13-1/4 in.

    Courtesy of Art Mûr, Montréal, Canada
  34. Cal Lane

    Untitled, 2007
    Plasma-cut steel can
    17 x 13-3/4 in.

    Courtesy of Art Mûr, Montréal, Canada
  35. Cal Lane

    Untitled, 2007
    Plasma-cut steel can
    17 x 13-3/4 in.

    Courtesy of Art Mûr, Montréal, Canada
  36. Mike Libby

    Orthoptera, 2011
    Grasshopper, antique brass and steel watchparts, gears, springs, glass dome, walnut base, and sueded mat
    6 x 6-1/2 x 6-1/2 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Mike Libby’s hybridized insects are the stuff of science fiction and horror movies, but also of cutting edge technology. This very real grasshopper has been carefully fitted with bionic attachments to become a sort of insect-robot. Is it an invader from outer space, part of a swarm that intends to take over the planet? Or could it be more closely related to the nano-devices that are beginning to play such a crucial role in modern medicine? In either case, Orthoptera taps into humans’ deep-seated fear of insects as well as our respect for their social systems and methods of locomotion.

    Artist's website
  37. Jennifer Maestre

    Kraken, 2008
    Colored pencils and thread
    14 x 12 x 12 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Jennifer Maestre is interested in the twin impulses of repulsion and desire, and the tension that results when they are embodied in a single being or object. Here, the colors attract us, but the sharpened pencil points telegraph danger. Maestre’s sculptures were originally inspired by beautiful yet deadly sea urchins, and gradually morphed into creatures one might find in a particularly bizarre pet shop. The technique is basically the same used for beadwork; she cuts the pencils into one-inch sections, drills a hole in each, and sews them together with a peyote stitch.

    Jennifer Maestre in her studio.  Courtesy Masons News Service
    Jennifer Maestre in her studio. Courtesy Masons News Service

    Artist's Website
  38. Carlo Marcucci

    Wheatfields LXIV-64, 2007
    Udon, squid ink spaghetti, and porcini mushroom spaghetti on wood
    12 x 32 x 3-1/2 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Formally, Carlo Marcucci’s sculptures owe a debt to the geometric constructions of Minimalist artists such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre. More to the point, however, is their relationship to the straight rows and earthy textures of farmscapes as seen from the air. Marcucci is interested in how divorced we have become from the source of our food in these days of corporate farming and highly-processed convenience foods. “Modern man now forages and hunts in markets and restaurants, rather than the forests and prairies of his ancient forebears,” the artist says. In the Wheatfields series, grain products (pasta and noodles) have devolved to semblances of the boxes in which they are packaged.

    Menziken 87-55, a Minimalist wall sculpture from 1987 by Donald Judd
    Menziken 87-55, a Minimalist wall sculpture from 1987 by Donald Judd

    Artist's Website
  39. Rebecca Mushtare

    Consumption Portrait #2, 2009
    Plastic bags and thread
    10 x 13 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Rebecca Mushtare’s Quilted Consumption series is a response to runaway consumerism and the vast amount of waste it generates. Made entirely of plastic shopping bags that the artist has cut, pieced, and sewn together, these Constructivist compositions suggest feedsack quilts of the Depression era, when recycling was not simply a moral consideration, but a financial necessity. They also remind us of the hundreds of billions of bags and other disposables made of precious fossil fuels that end up in landfills around the globe every year.

    A Russian constructivist poster
    A Russian constructivist poster

    Artist's website
  40. Rebecca Mushtare

    Consumption Portrait #9, 2010
    Plastic bags and thread
    8 x 10 in.

    Collection of the artist
  41. Andrew Myers

    An Artist’s Winter, 2010
    Screws, oil paint, phonebook pages, and wood
    24 x 24 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Carefully painted screws become the individual “pixels” in Andrew Myers’ labor-intensive, three-dimensional portraits of friends and family. This particular piece depicts the artist himself, floating against a background collaged from pages of his local telephone directory. Although Myers does work from photographs, he does not use a computer to generate the design, preferring to build up the image from a drawing, one screw at a time.

    Artist's website
  42. Cornelia Parker

    Pulled Tooth Drawing, 2003
    Reclaimed dental gold
    24 x 24 in.

    Collection of Elizabeth Leach

    The British artist Cornelia Parker works only with used materials because “new objects haven’t had a life.” She is well-known for blowing things up, flattening them with a steam-roller, and otherwise causing their “cartoon deaths” before resurrecting them in a completely new form. For her metal drawings, an expert silversmith has helped her stretch such items as Georgian spoons, gold crucifixes, and silver coins into almost impossibly thin wire. She frequents flea markets, junk shops and eBay for her raw materials, but tracking down gold fillings for the series that includes Pulled Tooth Drawing required that she enter the demi-monde of pawn shops. In the end, these lovely scribbles remind us that the fate of human beings, like that of physical objects, can be surprising and malleable.

    Artist's Website
  43. Aurora Robson

    Liquid Asset, 2010
    Discarded plastic bottles, tinted polycrylic,mica powder, and rivets
    60 x 30 x 30 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Aurora Robson is deeply concerned with the amount of plastic accumulating in our oceans and is committed to raising awareness about plastic pollution and consumption. Liquid Asset is from a body of work called Be Like Water that she created for display in Philadelphia. Local school children helped her collect materials for a cascading installation 108 feet long and 25 feet tall, made from 50,000 plastic bottle caps and 10,000 bottles. The beautiful and delicate “creatures” that comprise the sculpture reference the marine life that is so threatened by the millions of plastic bottles that end up in the ocean every year.

    Be Like Water installation at the Skybox, Philadelphia.
    Be Like Water installation at the Skybox, Philadelphia.

    Artist's website
  44. Loren Schwerd

    1317 Charbonnet St., 2007
    Human hair, steel wire, Fiberglas screen, thread, and wood beads
    19 x 23 x 3-1/2 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Loren Schwerd received her MFA from Syracuse University and exhibited in the 1999 Rochester-Finger Lakes Exhibition here at MAG. She had been living in New Orleans for a number of years when the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. While driving around surveying the aftermath, she retrieved boxes of human hair extensions outside a beauty salon that had been destroyed. Inspired by the Victorian jewelry and pictures made from the hair of deceased loved ones, she used the extensions to reconstruct miniature versions of six houses that had been ravaged in the storm. 1317 Charbonnet Street depicts a shotgun-style house common in New Orleans. Schwerd has placed the sculpture inside a frame that references memento mori shadow boxes popular in the 19th century.

    1317 Charbonnet Street, New Orleans, still standing a few years after Hurricane Katrina.
    1317 Charbonnet Street, New Orleans, still standing a few years after Hurricane Katrina.

    Victorian hair-wreath in shadow box.  Courtesy Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA.
    Victorian hair-wreath in shadow box. Courtesy Everhart Museum, Scranton, PA.

    Artist's website
  45. Donna Sharrett

    Before Something Else Happens: The 52nd Memento, 2001
    Rose petals, synthetic hair, and glass beads
    31 x 31 in.

    Courtesy of Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York, New York

    Donna Sharrett began creating her Memento series during a period of deep mourning after her mother died. These pieces contain several universal references to themes of life and death: flowers mark rites of passage from weddings to funerals; the artificial hair calls to mind Victorian-era mourning jewelry; the circular shape generates the calming influence of a mandala or the rose window of a church. Other aspects are intensely personal: the titles are lines drawn from letters Sharrett received from her mother over the years; the buttonhole stitching she uses to connect the flower petals was learned from her. The beauty and fragility of the work also serves as a reminder of both the splendor and the brevity of the human life cycle.

    A Tibetan sand mandala
    A Tibetan sand mandala.

    Rose window, United Methodist Church, Jenkintown, PA.
    Rose window, United Methodist Church, Jenkintown, PA.

    Artist's website
  46. Jean Shin

    Chemical Balance II, 2005
    Prescription bottles, mirror, and epoxy
    120 x 144 x 60 in. (dimensions variable)

    Courtesy of the artist and Artist Pension Fund, New York, New York

    Sponsored at MAG by Christopher Taylor Barry, M.D. and David Omdahl

    Jean Shin’s installations explore the intersection of personal identity and larger social issues, and typically involve vast accumulations of a single type of ordinary object. When she conceived this particular work, she found herself thinking about the aging process and our bodies’ dependencies. She collected thousands of empty prescription bottles from nursing homes, pharmacies, and the medicine cabinets of friends, from which she built glowing structures reminiscent of crystalline stalagmites and stalactites. Slowly expanding toward each other, they are a collective portrait of a society becoming ever more dependent on prescription drugs.

    Artist's website
  47. Jennifer Sirey

    Albino and Dream, 2007
    Glass, bacteria, water, vinegar, and monofilament
    36-1/2 x 9-1/2 x 3-3/4 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Jennifer Sirey’s partner in art-making is acetobacter, a type of bacteria that uses oxygen to convert wine into vinegar. She builds a glass tank and fills it to a predetermined level with wine collected at the end of parties and from friends who do tastings in their wine shop. She tilts the tank until the surface takes on a geometric shape she likes, and then stabilizes it. Over time, the bacteria form a “skin” on the surface of the liquid and anchor themselves to monofilament rings Sirey has adhered to the glass. The artist controls the progress by intermittently shifting the tanks and allowing gravity to intervene. When the desired configurations have been achieved, she removes the wine and replaces it with clear water to highlight the natural color of the micro-population. “The final piece is alive,” she says, “but in a state of hibernation.”

    Acetobacter aceti.  Courtesy SciencePhoto.com.
    Acetobacter aceti. Courtesy SciencePhoto.com.

    Artist's website
  48. Esther Solondz

    Opal Brunner, 2010
    Rust on paper
    41 x 29 in.

    Private collection

    Esther Solondz is interested in the altered states that simple materials undergo when allowed to interact with other simple materials. Inspired by found photographs and starting with a drawing on paper, she traces the lines with iron filings or steel wool; bits of tape not only hold the metal down in spots, but also act as a resist. Next she applies kitchen salt and then water, misting or pouring for different effects. The rusting process is allowed to proceed for hours or weeks, depending on the outcome Solondz desires. The resulting portraits call to mind the alchemical transformations of the darkroom or the mystical appearance of sacred images, such as on the Shroud of Turin or Veronica’s Veil.

    The Shroud of Turin.
    The Shroud of Turin.

    Domenico Fetti, The Veil of Veronica, ca. 1618–22. Courtesy National Gallery of Art.
    Domenico Fetti, The Veil of Veronica, ca. 1618–22. Courtesy National Gallery of Art.

    Artist's website
  49. Laura Splan

    Negligee #2 (Serotonin), 2008
    Machine embroidery on cosmetic facial peel with dress form
    64 x 16 x 16 in.

    Courtesy of the artist

    Health epidemics, bio-terrorism, reality makeover shows, anti-microbial products, pharmaceutical advertising, and traditional domestic arts inspire Laura Splan’s work. Her Trousseau series consists of nightgowns, gloves, fans and other dainties constructed from cosmetic facial peel, a gel that retains the impressions of pores and hairs when it dries. For a garment as large as Negligee #2, Splan covers her entire body with the product and pulls it off in one large “hide” so she has sheets of delicate “fabric” to work with. The machine-embroidered motifs are derived from anatomical or botanical imagery. Appropriately embellished with designs based on the structure of serotonin, a neurotransmitter for functions of sex and sleep, this nightgown is simultaneously alluring and disturbing.

    Artist's website
  50. Rebecca Szeto

    Big Softie, 2004
    Rose thorns on paper
    22 x 30 in.

    Collection of Ivette and Charles Esserman

    Rebecca Szeto seizes upon wordplay to turn thorns into an unexpected source of confusion. By using a treacherous material to spell out “softie” in large, curvaceous letters, she highlights the disconnect between beauty and danger that exists in the natural world. “I create visual metaphors for the complex mixed emotions of the human condition,” she says, “blessed with big pauses of silence, humor, and violence.”

    Artist's website
  51. Vadis Turner

    Tampon Cake, 2007
    Tampons and applicators
    15 x 12 x 12 in.

    Private collection

    In times past, one measure of a woman’s worth was her skill at domestic tasks such as sewing, cleaning, and cooking, as well as her fertility and physical beauty. In response, Vadis Turner has been crafting a collection of objects she refers to as her dowry: material goods that have traditionally served to advance a woman’s position through marriage. The Tampon Cake was the first wedding-themed object she created and was the pivotal piece that inspired the Dowry series. Like the debutante gown she made of wax paper from her mother’s kitchen and the Faberge-style eggs she crafted from human hair and found trinkets, Tampon Cake repurposes humble materials into symbols of feminine status.

    Artist's website
  52. Jess von der Ahe

    Corpus Regis, 2006
    Blood, resin, and clay on board
    48 x 36 in.

    Collection of the artist

    Jess von der Ahe uses her own menstrual blood as a painting medium. Here, she takes as her subject King Ludwig II of Bavaria, a champion of the arts and builder of the fairy-tale castle known as Schloss Neuschwanstein. Ludwig was also an eccentric spendthrift and, most probably, a conflicted homosexual under intense pressure to produce an heir. His ministers eventually had him declared insane and removed from power; the following day he died, childless, under mysterious circumstances. Today he is a national hero because of the tourist dollars his various castles generate. By painting Ludwig without his head, von der Ahe may refer to the king’s highly questionable insanity diagnosis. In using blood, she conveys his suffering and possible martyrdom for his sexual orientation.

    Ludwig II, around 1874
    Ludwig II, around 1874

    Schloss Neuschwanstein.
    Schloss Neuschwanstein

    Artist's website
  53. Mark Wagner

    Fortune’s Daughter, 2005
    Currency on panel
    80 X 32 in.

    Courtesy of Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York

    The common $1 bill is not only sturdy but highly decorative, qualities that Mark Wagner exploits to the fullest in his currency collages. The life-sized Fortune’s Daughter is a tour-de-force of both craft and concept in which letters, numbers, filigree, foliage, and feathers reconstitute themselves into the curves of the female form. Composed of 200 bills cut into 12,390 pieces and requiring 446 hours of labor to create, it is a provocative commentary on money’s relationship to art. Historically, Renaissance merchants converted their fortunes into something socially acceptable by commissioning art and donating it to the church. Today, a hyper-active marketplace allows artists, dealers, and collectors to reverse this process by turning art into a commodity that can generate enormous sums of money.

    Artist's website

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