Beautiful Plastic, and Cash as Art
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center
According to just about everyone—newscasters, environmentalists, whatever eco-relative you sat next to at Thanksgiving dinner—plastics are the worst. With regularity, stories appear about those giant heaps of plastic debris swirling around the oceans, disgusting in their content and their enormity (the largest is twice the size of Texas). So I wasn’t so keen on an art exhibition that aims to be anti-plastics by using plastic garbage as its medium. Maybe it would be a statement heavy enough to pierce our ennui about the issue, but enjoyable?
Really, yes. Aurora Robson’s Human Nature Walk, in its final month at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center is, in a word, beautiful. Unexpectedly so. In her work, plastic is not so much the ugly enemy but a potential resource. Its abundance might cause you to shudder just a little; my own experience was to marvel at how ordinary items like plastic bottle caps can become things of beauty with Robson’s alchemy. (Photos, top, above and below).
For over 20 years, Robson has been manipulating plastic waste to create beautiful, lyrical, and intricate installations. She has devised many methods for working with plastic that exploit its inherent indestructibility and flexibility. With her hands and other tools, Robson collects, cleans, sorts, bends, cuts, rivets, sews, extrudes, welds, rips, ties, nests, dangles, illuminates, stacks, sculpts, pools, and coaxes plastic, intercepted from the waste stream into new forms and formations. Human Nature Walk represents a compendium of Robson’s techniques and groundbreaking practices with plastic debris.—Katherine Gass Stowe, curator
In another exhibition (Home Bodies), David B. Smith’s piece (photo below) stands out. Images on layers of transparent panels (think parallel shower curtains) represent pieces of his life, including his cat. The audio artist commentary via a scannable QR code explains the reason for the layers, which can be moved in ways that obscure some of the images and reveal others. Another layer, and another, could be added. It’s a wonderful metaphor for the human soul.
Finally, always fun to find something cheeky, like artist Virginia Green’s corset, a statement on women’s bodies and cold hard cash, constructed in part of actual dollar bills.
Human Nature Walk is on view until February 11, 202, other exhibitions until March 9, 2024. For more information, check out BMAC’s website. If you’re visiting the museum, you might want to grab lunch at The Marina, just outside of downtown Brattleboro.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.