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Plastic Entanglements

11 Oct
robson red

“Isla”, 2014 Plastic debris (PET & HDPE), aluminum rivets, tinted polycrylic, mica powder, by Aurora Robson

Did you know that almost every piece of plastic ever made still exists today?

Plastic waste is one of those unique things that takes 1000 years to decompose and when plastic does break down, the small bits of toxic chemicals, such as bisphenola A (BPA) and PS oligomer end up in the digestive tracks of animals.  Plastic is now even being found in humans.  Plastic never disappears.  It will be around long after we are gone.

The Chazen Museum of Art (University of Wisconsin-Madison) has a new exhibit that gives a timeline of this unique modern material – plastic.  Curated by Joyce Robinson and guest curators, Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor and Heather Davis, the show addresses ecology, aesthetics and materials with contemporary artwork.  Sixty works by thirty artists explores environmental entanglements with plastic.

Although plastic is one of the most successful inventions and adds convenience, hygiene, and accessibility the artwork also displays the darker side.

Willie Coles Chandelier

When I entered the lobby of the Chazen Museum a monstrous Chandelier hung from the ceiling overhead.  Artist, Willie Cole created the piece entirely of plastic water bottles.  It was a particularly interesting piece considering how this plastic garbage is so translucent and how it pays homage to our vast consumerism and our culture of convenience.

Inside the galleries I watched an eerie video by Tejal Shah, an artist from Goa, India.  A cross between science fiction and modern dance, “Landfill Dance” shows a troupe of dancers in white cockroach dresses dancing upon a massive landfill.  Their movements around the piles of garbage are a strange interaction that makes me think of a future apocalypse.

Dianna Cohen, an artist from Los Angeles displayed a large plastic shopping bag mandala.  During meditation she hand-stitched the piece which made me reflect about what material things I accumulate.

purple

“Ona”, 2014 Plastic debris (PET & HDPE), aluminum rivets, tinted polycrylic, mica powder, by Aurora Robson

One of my favorite pieces was by Aurora Robson, born in Canada but now lives in upstate New York.  Her two pieces titled “Ona” and “Isla” were glittery and whimsical.  It was hard to believe they were created out of garbage.  She believes that if she crafts her art well enough, the plastic will hopefully never enter the waste stream again.  As an artist, I was particularly inspired by her perspectives.  I would recommend other artists to check out her video interview on her website below.

The show does an excellent job with getting the viewer to think about positive and negative aspects of plastic use but also to ponder personal choices and the future world as well.

There were many more artists in the show which I may write about in another blog post but for now I would encourage those in the Madison, WI area to check out the show at Chazen.  The Plastic Entanglements show is up until January 5, 2020 and it’s free.

 

www.chazen.wisc.edu

www.williecole.com

www.aurorarobson.com

 

Female Artists Missing from History

17 Sep
Poppy Pattern small 200 dpi with logo

“Poppy Pattern” Watercolor on Yupo paper 26″x 34″ by Katie Turner

Do you know that there are dozens of amazing female artists left out of history books?

After reading “The Guerrilla Girls Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art” written by the Guerrilla Girls, I heard many names that were new to me.

Female artists have struggled for proper recognition for their artistic abilities for centuries.  For some, their fathers, husbands, brothers took the women’s art as their own, adding signatures and selling it as their own.  A few gained some notoriety, but unfortunately, historians ignored the accomplishments of most of them.

Many of the female artists covered in this book deserve a closer look.  They were innovative, developing new ideas that changed the art world. These women showed the world another viewpoint.

Even into this modern era of art, women find it difficult to be taken seriously, have museum or gallery shows and sell at the same level as male artists.  But today there are more women exhibiting, reviewed and collected than ever before, although numbers are still less than their white male counterparts.

The women in this book make great examples for artists.  Additionally, women today, benefit from living role models and mentors, finding inspiration and support.

Many museums and galleries in Europe and New York are exclusionary, giving attention to more of the male artists.  Research tells us it gets better for women and artist of color, the further you geographically go from Europe and New York.

The book encourages theorists and women artists to finish up arguing over feminism, cultural constructs and female sensibilities to get on with the more important things – make great art!

Let’s do all we can to value other’s art and definitely, keep making great art!

 “Painting well is the best revenge!” ~ Guerrilla Girls

Some of the more “unknown” female artists from history:

  • Christine de Pizan
  • Lavinia Fontana
  • Elisabetta Sirani
  • Onorata Rodiani
  • Properzia de Rossi
  • Maria Robusti
  • Artemisia Gentileschi
  • Judith Leyster
  • Maria Merian
  • Rachel Ruysch
  • Angelica Kauffmann
  • Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun
  • Rosa Bonheur
  • Edmonia Lewis
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Harriet Powers
  • Camille Claudel
  • Sonia Terk Delaunay
  • Claude Cahun
  • Alexandra Exter
  • Hannah Hoch
  • Gunta Stoltzl
  • Kathe Kollwitz
  • Dan Yuliang
  • Tarsila Do Amaral
  • Augusta Savage
  • Alma Thomas
  • Maria Montoya Martinez
  • Eva Hesse
  • Ana Mendieta