Objects + History = ‘Homecoming’ for Aspen artist
People affect place. Even when they’re environmentally aware, human presence affects the land on which they dwell.
Two solo exhibitions in the R2 Gallery at The Launchpad explore that idea through different media. The artists, Carbondale’s Lindsay Jones and Lara Whitley of Aspen, submitted proposals separately. They didn’t meet each other until this summer. But Carbondale Arts’ Brian Colley recognized the parallels in their disparate submissions and unified them for the exhibition of Jones’ “Pattern Recognition: Observations and Explorations” and Whitley’s “Homecoming.” Jones’ work is a series of landscape drawings and paper sculptures. Whitley has constructed the shape of a house by stringing glass found on the land around her home.
“Both Lara and I are going out into the land and seeing what the land has to say,” Jones said.
The exhibitions will remain on display in the Carbondale gallery until Oct. 6.
Whitley’s project started with simple observation: As she walked her family dog on land behind her home, shards of glass and pottery grabbed her attention. She began gathering these pieces of a past generation’s garbage and toting them home.
“These bits of glass and ironstone, which turned out to date back to the mining era, were the plastic of their day,” she wrote in an email about the project. “The Aspen Historical Society hypothesized that my stomping grounds were likely dumping grounds from a former ranch, pre-dating Aspen’s municipal dumps.”
Whitley didn’t yet know what would come of those materials, but she gathered and sorted them by color. Then, on one of her walks, the outline of a mining shack came to mind. She envisioned a line drawing, in effect, with glass suspended by wire to delineate the space.
“When I’m making art, I give myself permission to follow curiosity to the end of the road,” Whitley said.
The installation is site specific, designed to fit the dimensions of the room in which it now hangs. A metal frame is suspended from the ceiling, dangling strands of steel wire strung with fragments of bottles. Buttons—95 percent of them foraged—and beads serve as stoppers for each piece of glass. The completed piece includes 1,200 pieces of glass and 1,500 feet of steel wire. When doors are open and wind can pass through, its movement and sound evoke wind chimes.
“When you’re suspending something, gravity is one of the materials,” Whitley said. Her father, a retired designer-builder, assisted by establishing a safe working load. And although the finished sculpture hangs in a static environment, natural light will ensure its shadows change throughout the day. “Light and glass are friends.”
“Homecoming” drew Whitley back into the studio with a new medium — sculpture isn’t part of her training — and also connected her to the land around her and its history.
“I’m able to wrestle with big questions I have about the ways we are trashing our planet,” she wrote. “Why do we discard things that outlast us? What does ‘away’ mean? How will we put this house back in order, literally or figuratively?”
‘Pattern and Recognition’
Although they are classified as drawings, Jones’ work plays with the idea of landscape in a variety of ways. Line drawings, symbols and pattern interact with pieces of aqua tissue paper, which offer the works dimension and texture.
“I’m always looking or finding something that takes you away from the piece of paper,” she said. Jones began incorporating tissue paper 18 months ago, after she used it to make a pinata for her wedding.
The resulting drawings are a version of sights Jones has visited, many of them in the desert. She and her husband visit desert often, and Jones is intrigued by the mystery of people who inhabited those lands. How did they survive?
“People see the desert as a wasteland. When you get out into it, there’s much to it. There’s so much life to it,” she said.
During these visits, litter and other human-made distractions have grabbed Jones’ attention. She’s interested in the way those creations and patterns of human behavior intersect with the natural environment, but it’s not always a straightforward answer. For example, a billboard may be an eyesore. But after a long trip into the desert, a billboard can also serve as a welcome back to civilization.
That shows up in her work as brightly colored letters and slivers of letters. The drawings also include other manmade construction, such as a cellphone tower interrupting a mesa.
But the drawings also leave much to the viewer’s imagination, thanks to white space and Jones’ abstract interpretation.
“Everything you’re seeing is coming from something I’ve seen and I’m interpreting in a new way,” said Jones, whose work as a textile designer also informs the patterns she incorporates. “These are fun to make. I’m just playing with space and color. I’ve got some serious undertones when I’m making it, but I’m also keeping it light with color.”
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