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  • Rainey Knudson

Beautiful Plastic (296 words)

My friend Keith Plocek recently ordered three pancakes for takeout, and received this ridiculous unintentional sculpture:

Which got me thinking about Aurora Robson and Diane Landry, two artists who make spectacular art out of ordinary plastic bottles.

Robson, a welder by training, cuts up bottles and heats and stretches the pieces, riveting them together to create elaborate, biological-looking artworks.

These images are from an installation she did at the Rice Gallery in Houston in 2008, where she used an airbrush to tint her bits of plastic. She was partial mostly to rosy hues, which made the installation feel like a giant internal organ networked with veins and arteries, and sprouting little sea creatures.

The Quebecoise artist Diane Landry was also commissioned to make an installation by Rice Gallery, in 2005. She made a mandala using plastic water bottles affixed around a laundry basket. A light on a simple robotic arm entered and exited the basket, creating a mandala shadow on the wall that would grow and shrink over the course of one minute. (Meaning it rewarded patience, much like a religious mandala used for meditation.) This was one in a series Landry named for the brand of water bottle used, i.e. Mandala Evian, Mandala Naya, etc.

(It did not involve plastic, but Landry's bigger installation at the Rice Gallery, Ecole d'aviation (Flying School), was spectacular. Sprouting upright from the floor were colorful umbrellas that gently opened and closed. They were controlled by small mechanical arms connected to homemade accordions and emitted a squeezebox sound, like breathing. The umbrellas would light up as they opened and darken when they closed. I'd give anything to see it installed somewhere again.)

I've been editing a book about Rice Gallery, One Thing Well, which will be published fall 2021.


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