Plastic Poetics opens at Miller Gallery

Plastic Poetics, an exhibition that showcases the creations of artists Ian Finch, Maya Schindler, Sarah E. Wood, and Colin Zaug, opened last Friday at the Regina Gouger Miller Gallery. Cara Erskine, exhibitions coordinator of the gallery and curator of the exhibit, has brought together a group of unique artists, each offering different and equally intriguing styles of work.

“I wanted a title that would talk about the materials that were in the show,” Erskine said, referring to the exhibit’s diverse canvasses, from inflatable plastic to household plants. “One of the things I was really attracted to was seizing those real materials and their transformation to make spaces.”

Each artist is known for his or her unique type of work. Finch is renowned for his Venn diagram poems; Zaug for his inflatable landscapes; Schindler for her connection between art and text; and Wood for her work with black rubber, vinyl, and plastic to create shadows. Zaug, Schindler, and Wood each have a floor dedicated to their work while Finch’s poems travel up the gallery walls, forming a connection between the exhibits.

Plastic Poetics’s first piece looks something like a large white shifting cloud. This moving structure is actually a piece of special white plastic, called Tyvek, kept inflated by an industrial fan. It has an opening through which visitors can enter and, once inside, sit on a wooden bench and peep through an eyehole to the outside world. This mysterious inflatable landscape is the work of Zaug.

“These inflatables came out of work that was sort of about blanking something out or making a white nothingness,” Zaug said. Despite his effort to “blank out,” Zaug still wanted his pieces to have a big physical presence, creating an interesting conflict.

Zaug has created such pieces before, but this piece is his first that can be entered and viewed from the inside. The wall next to Zaug’s exhibit features poems by Finch that spout words and phrases like “thought bubble,” “looms,” “winds,” and “glimmerer’s glean.”

Visitors on the second floor are greeted by a pink and green wall mural with the words “wishful thinking” stenciled all over them. What is interesting about this exhibit by Schindler is that, although the words on the wall appear green, they are actually white. For this piece, her first wall mural, Schindler used color theory to create the illusion of green from the pink around the words. Schindler, a non-native speaker of English, has a different view on many English phrases including “wishful thinking,” “million in one,” and “the benefit of the doubt,” inspiring her to create works of art around them.

“My work is text based,” Schindler said. “[It’s] not just text, it’s about how we relate to text. My inspiration comes from everywhere, [like] popular culture [and] my understanding of language.”

“She has a really fresh perspective on English expressions,” said Erskine. “I think they are really rye, humorous observations.” Schindler’s art conveys her ideas in part by establishing a connection between text and images.

The mood of Plastic Poetics changes on the exhibit’s last floor, where Wood’s work creates a different effect than the other artists’ pieces. Unlike the other floors, this one contains pieces that are completely black, depicting shadows of various objects, ranging from houseplants to hanging structures.

“For me it is about taking something that’s familiar and changing it til it becomes unfamiliar,” said Wood. She accomplished this with houseplants, which, although recognizable, become strangely bizarre in her art. This disconnection is evident in her other pieces as well, which depict objects with their shadows; oddly, the shadows and objects don’t match up with each other.

“In particular, I’m interested in shadows and how shadows behave,” Wood said. Her favorite piece is the shadow from a window. “I think, for me, this is sort of the most concise about what I am trying to do.” Wood’s work was popular among onlookers, many of them calling it their favorite exhibit.

Finch’s poems continue on these walls as well, relating to the exhibit with phrases like “under your penumbra” (another word for shadow) and “creased photo of space time.” Plastic Poetics was the first opportunity for Finch, a local artist, to display his poetry on a surface other than paper.

The response for the opening was very warm, with interested observers milling everywhere and enjoying the art and surrounding music.