Exhibition and reception for current artists-in-residence Terry Berlier, Donna Anderson Kam, and Ethan Estess on Friday, January 20, from 5-9pm and Saturday, January 21, from 1-5pm. This exhibition will be the culmination of four months of work by the artists who have scavenged materials from the dump to make art and promote recycling and reuse.
Terry Berlier: Even the Windmills are Weakening
In today’s world where hi-tech gadgets are revered an afternoon at the dump quickly puts things in perspective, making visible technology’s vulnerabilities and illustrating how easily modern inventions can become footnotes to a bygone era. While we often consider technology to be impersonal or unemotional, when faced with a pile of old typewriters or a trove of homemade electronics it’s hard not to be struck with some gut level feelings, and it seems inevitable to think about these objects’ place within our modern history. Working with the idea of the dump as both a ruin and a monument, Terry Berlier has created sculptural works that metaphorically excavate and honor these inventions and our intertwined relationships to them.
It is not unusual that Berlier is interested in how history and time mediate our understanding of ingenuity. Berlier’s own ingenuity is a main component of her work, and she frequently employs mechanical or scientific methods in sculptures that are often kinetic or physically engage the viewer. Past works have addressed nuclear storage facilities, time as recorded in tree rings or core samples, as well as issues of queer identity, interpersonal relations, and how we negotiate being human in a technological age. Berlier asks, “…as innovations alter how we perceive and interact with the world, are we coming closer to or farther from understanding each other and the world around us?” Also of interest to Berlier is sound and the instruments and machines involved in its production. An underlying current of humor can also be found in her work, along with an appreciation for failed inventions and a camaraderie with those that have made them. Berlier is Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Stanford University.
Donna Anderson Kam: Beginning at the End
Looking at Donna Anderson Kam’s large-scale drawings in pastel one might not realize the source of her imagery or the process behind her work. Anderson Kam uses contemporary newspaper stories as a starting point to explore pressing social issues, especially the paradox of prosperity and sustainability. She begins by photographing young actors as they perform the stories, then uses the resulting photographs to create collaged studies that she eventually reinterprets in pastels. The final drawings are finely rendered scenes in soft tones that can be as large as four by six feet and which are left intentionally ambiguous. Negative space is as significant as the drawings themselves as it serves to isolate and accentuate, and the soft pastel tones speak to hazy memories of past events. The youth of the figures alludes to everything from fragility and peril to mischievousness and rebellion, and intimates that the issues that play out in these scenarios will continue to face future generations. She explains, “…our consumption based economy, our media influenced identity, and the unrealistic expectations of personal prosperity inspired by a constant barrage of messages from the media to consume/renew/refresh, have created a mountain of discarded commercial goods, cultural amnesia, and the many spiritually impoverished ‘consumers’ that exist today.”
During her residency, Anderson Kam has used the Recology San Francisco facility as a backdrop for her actors and recognizable areas—the sculpture garden, hillside, and Public Disposal Building are all visible in her final pieces. She has also incorporated new materials into her practice including computer paper and advertising signage, and as pastels have been harder to come by, she is working with a variety of chalks and crayons. Expanding on the narrative nature of her work, she plans to present drawings in free-standing circular formats, enabling the viewer to walk around a piece, entering and exiting at any place to create their own beginning and end.
Ethan Estess: Stories from the Changing Tide
Student artist Ethan Estess uses sculpture to address environmental issues, particularly the perilous state of our oceans. As a graduate student at Stanford University, Estess is pursuing an interdisciplinary environmental science degree where he studies science communication, mechanical engineering, and studio art, with a focus on the marine environment. “If there is one thing that I have discovered by studying the ocean, it is that it is greatly imperiled - it is treated both as humanity's waste bin and its fast food joint. As a result, most of my works tell narratives about environmental science issues, from marine plastic pollution to shark conservation. My focus is on appealing to the basic emotions of the viewer such that they can understand the scientific concepts at play and internalize the gravity of humanity's impact on the global ecosystem.” While at Recology Estess has been drawn to the copious amount of plastics found in the Public Disposal and Recycling Area, and in particular, items that have never been used, such as cases of coffee cup lids. The works he has created from his finds should hopefully give viewers pause and prompt thinking about the daily decisions we make and their effect on the environment. Estess’s work will be on view at the Recology Environmental Learning Center at 401 Tunnel Avenue.
The Artist in Residence Program at Recology San Francisco is a one-of-a-kind program established in 1990 to encourage the conservation of natural resources and instill a greater appreciation for the environment and art in children and adults. Artists work for four months in studio space on site, use materials recovered from the Public Disposal and Recycling Area, and speak to students and the general public. Over ninety professional Bay Area artists have completed residencies. Applications are accepted annually in August.