When my friend Marie first put New York artist Tara Donovan on my radar, telling me in glowing words about an exhibition she had visited in Denmark, I looked at the photos and yes, I could see what the fuss might be about, but, visually, it all seemed a bit bland.
“You really have to see it close up – the photos don’t do the pieces justice” Marie said.
As you (or I for that matter), couldn’t be expected to travel to Denmark en masse to see the exhibition, I passed on posting it. That is until Marie, ever persevering, sent me a video of Tara Donovan’s work and I was compelled to change my mind.
I am always intrigued by the re-purposing of utilitarian objects, and by the ability of looking at things out of context to imagine a different use. Tara Donovan elevates this ability to an art form – she is not precious about the materials she uses for her sculptures and installations. In fact, she has made a name for herself by using objects like toothpicks, styrofoam cups, paper plates and even scotch tape.
Surprisingly, the materials come before the ideas. As Ms Donovan declared in an interview to W Magazine:
It’s a matter of deciding, Okay, I’m going to buy those cups. I don’t need plastic cups, but I’m going to get ’em and then mess around with them until I get an answer,” she says. “It’s a very organic, intuitive and observant process. I see where I wind up.” She doesn’t care that they’re cups—what interests her is “exploiting the physical characteristics of the thing that have nothing to do with what it’s used for.”
The end results veer from the ethereal to the other worldly. Only after closer inspection, the objects at the core of the installations become apparent.
The video is only 4 minutes long and is a collage of close ups of Ms. Donovan’s intriguing and bewitching work. Narrated by the artist herself, it also has wise words on creativity (apparently it doesn’t fall from the sky while we wait around to be struck) and on the personal experience of witnessing art.