The mountainous glass sculpture in the window of the Institute of Contemporary Arts at the Maine College of Arts (ICA), in Portland, Maine is part of the two-woman exhibition, “A Meticulous Ferment,” featuring the work of Beth Lipman and Kirsten Hassenfeld. Both of the women artist are clearly obsessed with the dual functionality of found objects these aesthetic show-up in their masterful obsession with each piece in this installation. The artists work to exploit the language of various materials; one in handblown glass, the other in paper, each creating a distinct narrative in there work.
Respectively, this show conveys the artists shared interest in the
history of decorative arts and ornamentation. Both bring a sensibility of balance with the contradiction of disorder in our daily lifestyles as consumers excessively obsessed with decadence and the need for cultural consumption.
This exhibition features a series large scale objects including Lipman’s five tier towering sculpture, “Bride,” an icy spectacle visible from the street leading you into ICA’s front foyer. The glass sculpture is overflowing with an abundance of glass objects composed of mystical sculpted small critters such as squirrels, rabbits and foxes scattered between oversized clusters of grapes, or between arrangements of apples or pears and other fruity delights. A selection of deconstructed wine glasses, water goblets, and tall vases are interwoven on each tier, creating a delicious poet menagerie. These settings evoke “Victorian Curios,” will conjure up a dream-like picturesque setting of a table overloaded with fanciful fairytale feast. Interestingly the top tier is orderly. While each descending level strikes a disorderliness with distorted and fragmented figures and at the bottom tier these objects spew out r on to the floor. In an adjacent smaller gallery, Lipman introduces an alternative idea of “ Bride,” as works of photography on paper and milky plexiglas. She also features an experimental variation in shiny black glass resembling the glossy sheen of harden molten lava from a volcano. There is something sinister about her shiny black glass creatures. Perhaps, I equate her use of sheen and black to those horrific images on television or online of water birds and sea creatures coated in slick black oil from the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
In the ICA’s rear gallery Kirsten Hassenfeld installation of ornamental paper sculpture fills the space from floor to ceiling her work resembles the reclaimed quality of delft porcelain imbued with cerulean blue ethnic symbols rooted from some unknown eastern culture. Hassenfeld’s, blue series is made of paper. She’s widely known for her unique ability to transform paper into other medias that resemble glass, milky stone, or metal, and this blue series is a brilliant example. Several pieces are arranged on the outer walls in small vignettes of decorative ornamental shapes similar to handmade mosaic tiles embedded in the walls of an outdoor garden. Her ability to assemble found objects creates a mystical feeling, much like in a “Harry Potter,” movie with floating objects and furnishings hovering over the students in Hogwarts dining hall. This ambient feeling gets captured with Hassenfeld’s sculptures hanging from the ceiling. Another delightful arrangement of founds objects made from wood, plastic, metal simulate a mysterious floating mini-city hovering over clouds only to pretend to be a chandelier. One floor setting strategically placed on a 1950’s vanity mirror features an over-sized chess set of assembled found objects ready to be played. Her work reminds us of our own illusion or our inability to see what lies before us. She moves between hanging her sculpture from the ceiling, to wall arrangement or freestanding floor sculpture. “Black Treen,” with varnished ridged rings that form delicate small branches that seemly grow out from a circular base that exudes an exquisite wedding cake.
“A Meticulous Ferment,” is a resplendent show. It is also a chance to see two artist whose works reflect a similar thinking of our cultural obsession with objects while delivering their message in an overtly settle manner.
For more information contact: Institute of Contemporary Arts, Maine College of Art, 522 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04101, 207.699.5016
(The show will be on view to August 15, 2010).