Veteran journalist Carl Hoffman believes he’s solved one of the great mysteries of the 20th century. In 1961 at the age of 23, Michael Rockefeller – son of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and a member of one of the richest and most powerful families in America ¬– travelled to remote New Guinea in search of primitive art for his father’s new museum.
Franklin Park Conservatory Readies Exhibit
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Later this week, the Franklin Park Conservatory on East Broad Street will unveil a new site- specific sculpture as part of its series of exhibits on sustainability. The exhibits bridge art and nature. But, the new installation is made up of very unnatural material.
The new sculpture is built with local debris. Throwaway material. In fact, sculptor, Aurora Robson, used plastic water bottles discarded along the banks of the Glen Echo Ravine near Clintonville to create a piece titled: “Quality of Mercy.” Members of a local watershed preservation group retrieved the litter, more than a thousand plastic water bottles, and gave it to Robson.
“I wasn’t looking to get on the green bandwagon with my work. I’ve been mostly working with this plastic debris that’s personal, You know that’s from individual people have used this one bottle, put it to their lips, there’s like this implicit trust.” Says Robson.
With the help of some recent graduates from the Columbus College of Art and Design, Robson cleaned 1,030 plastic bottles, cut them into pieces and then fashioned a sculpture. Robson says her inspiration for sculptures made of waste plastic came during a sunny day when she looked out the window of her Brooklyn studio and saw light reflecting off a garbage pile. Points of light gleamed even while the waste rotted.
“I had a rocky a pretty rocky childhood, unconventional childhood. I was plagued by these nightmares and I thought it would be interesting as an adult to try to figure out how to formally work with these same landscapes, they’re basically landscapes what I’m doing, and make it an inviting space. So I don’t find the work necessarily therapeutic but I find it invigorating. I love my job.”
As the plastic bottles are cut into angular shapes and placed on an outline “Quality of Mercy” remains an unrecognizable shape
“Most people interpret what I’m doing as abstract, even though for me its not. Q) What is it for you? For me its landscape. I’m rendering these nightmare landscapes from my childhood.”
Robson says she typically makes work that’s suspended so the viewer has to look up. She claims when someone looks up it poises them to be more receptive to positive messages.
Q) Do you worry about posture? Robson: I worry about all kinds of things. I’m a mother. I’m really good at worrying. I think about posture. I think about how people perceive the work and I try to put myself in their shoes, in other people’s shoes. I think empathy is important.”
And then there’s a moment of realization when someone sees the finished work.
“And then they’ll get up close and be like holy smokes this is made out of bottles.” Says Robson.
Yes, 1,030 clear plastic water bottles, all with what Robson calls “archival integrity” since they’re not bio-degradable. The work will last for generations.
“I like to think that if you take it and turn it into a piece of art, if it’s a successful piece of art it will never re-enter the waste stream.”
Aurora Robson’s exhibit formally opens at the Franklin Park Conservatory on September 9th. But her work “Quality of Mercy” will be unveiled later this week. Two other waste plastic creations called “Landmines” were set in the conservatory’s outdoor gardens in April.