“Salvage” at Art Exchange, Long Beach

Salvage at Art Exchange Exhibition Space; Photo credit Genie Davis
Jug City by Hilary Norcliffe in Salvage at Art Exchange Exhibition Space; Photo credit Genie Davis

Salvage: Upcycling the Old into Art

Through February 23 (Artist Talk Feb 10, 3-5pm)
Art Exchange Exhibition Space, Long Beach

by Genie Davis
Through February 23rd at the Long Beach Art Exchange Exhibition space, “Salvage” offers the work of twelve dynamic female artists who have turned discarded objects into art.

Using the ultimate in upcycling, these artists have taken items as disparate as bleach bottles, old leggings and color slides and turned them into conceptual works that are thrilling in both execution and theme. The reuse of discarded materials and their transition into something beautiful is wonderful in and of itself, but beyond that, the artists are also responding to the chaos in today’s natural, political and social environment. In short, Salvage does more than save and reiterate refuse, it also works toward saving our collective spirits.

Exhibition artists include: Anna Bae, Jennifer Celio, Chenhung Chen, Connie DK Lane, Emily Maddigan, Mariana Nelson, Hilary Norcliffe, Cat Chui Phillips, Katie Stubblefield, J. Renee Tanner, Sydney Walters, and Tracey Weiss.

With Play, Cat Chiu Phillips has transformed found materials such as cassette tapes and 9-tracks into a beautiful weaving. Hung from the windows of the exhibition space, it becomes a delicate, lace-like curtain filtering out the harshness of the street.

Creating an end-result visually far different than Phillips, but also employing weaving techniques, Mariana Nelson’s plastic bags, coffee cup lids, and spools of thread have been shaped into lush, flower-like wall hangings, wall sculptures and a chair. Like mysterious flora or alien creatures mid-gestation, Nelson’s work has a grand sense of aliveness.

Katie E. Stubblefield’s Comeuppance, a free-standing sculpture that makes reference to erratic weather patterns and specifically tornadic events, is equally alive. With Stubblefield’s ceiling-high composition of branches, string, rope, wire, zip ties and other objects, a moment in time is captured, one that is unstoppable, defiant and ultimately capable of recreating both physical and emotional landscape.

Beyond landscape, Connie DK Lane’s Scaffolding, is a sculpture that makes use of recycled bamboo poles, bottles, plastic and a shopping cart; it seems ready to take the viewer into another place and time– shopping cart as ersatz “Back to the Future” DeLorean, perhaps.

Exhibit curator J. Renee Tanner offers Stretch Pant Nation, a series of installations of women’s worn stretch pants in various sizes. Touching on the waste of consumerism and at the same time serving as an homage to the women’s movement, the pants are arrayed in vibrant sun-like configurations.

Gravity will do its thing is a terrific large diorama of found objects from artist
Jennifer Celio. Using beach trash, a blanket as a tent, and both house and spray paint – resolutely pink – Celio has created a kind of magical world of discards that viewers may long to shrink small enough to crawl inside. With miniature objects, glowing with light, the sounds of a noise machine humming, Celio examines the ways in which people make a mark on land, structures, and society. Evocative and mysterious, the work is both Lilliputian in size, and epic in scope.

Tracey Weiss has created a gorgeous installation in Obsolete. Crafted of 35mm slides and slide carousels, both are mounted in a pattern on the wall, with a swirl of discarded slides like piles of fallen leaves on the ground beneath them. The work is poignant, we are looking at what we throw away and the memories that we also may discard carelessly along the way.

Emily Maddigan’s Musk Ox is a strange creature formed from sequins, pins, trash and – taxidermy. A fascinating re-imagining of a once-living being, the figure is both elegiac and aglitter.

Anna Bae’s mixed media and mulch work Untitled, Uniforms, Shoes and Bottles creates a glimmer of hope within a dark visual landscape that could be inspired by Waiting for Godot. There are aspects of this large-scale work that could be a theatrical set, including the mulch lying around the sculptures, from which perhaps a new green thing may grow.

Chenhung Chen’s web-like I Ching in America, Hexagram #32 utilizes electrical components, wire, and found objects in a sea of electronic detritus that becomes a graceful crocheted weaving. A part of Chen’s series that relates to the I Ching: The Book of Changes, the piece seems to flow like water – if water was wire. Strikingly contemplative.

Hilary Norcliffe uses found objects to create a variety of truly engaging pieces here, including interactive xylophones made from discarded drawers, wood, and hardware, and her fascinating sculptural cutouts, Jug City created from white plastic jugs and bottles.

Sydney Walters Two or More uses a circle of plaster and mirrors to shape, or perhaps reshape, a look at women that have been too long ignored.

This is an altogether strong exhibition, in which disparate works nonetheless complement each other in both their boundless sense of invention and thematic intertwining.

Art Exchange Exhibition Space
356, E. 3rd Ave Long Beach CA 90802

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