Sometimes one man’s trash isn’t just another man’s treasure.
For Aurora Robson, it can be art.
Robson is a multi-media artist known mostly for her meditative work converting plastic waste into art. Robson’s art challenges our perception of matter. “Can artists serve a significant role in terms of solving environmental and societal problems? The answer is yes,” Robson says.
“Artists have historically served as the eyes of society. The impulse to make a piece of art is precisely the opposite of the impulse to throw something away,” she said in her TEDx talk. “I practice revealing the hidden value and potential in trash by working with the vehicles and packages that deliver the things we desire to us.”
In Re:fuse, Robson uses laundry detergent, bleach, shampoo and milk bottles; other plastic debris and junk mail to create visually intriguing works of art. The exhibition features wall reliefs — including several new pieces — and an assortment of junk-mail collages.
Her practice is about shifting negative trajectories into something positive: Much of Robson’s art formally references recurring nightmares she experienced as a child. Robson noted that these nightmares typically consisted of this “never-ending looping knot that continued in every direction.”
In the negative spaces in those knots, various blobs would form and grow. “I felt like they were going to suffocate me,” she said. From the depths of those dark midnight terrors, Robson conjured up images to create harmonious compositions.
Robson holds a double major (B.A.) in visual arts and art history from Columbia University. Her work has been featured in Sculpture Magazine, Art in America, WIRED, Art & Antiques, the cover of Green Building + Design and other publications.
She is a recipient of the Pollock Krasner Grant, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture, a TED/Lincoln Re-Imagine Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts Art Work Grant.
Robson is also the founding artist of Project Vortex, an international collective of artists, designers and architects who work with plastic debris. She is also the creator of a college course “Sculpture + Intercepting the Waste Stream” (SIWS) that she has taught at universities.
“My goal in making art is to give people an opportunity to reflect on their own perception of value so that we can all recognize that it isn’t just the letter, it’s the envelope that’s a gift,” Robson noted in her TEDx Talk. “In fact, all of this is. Waste is merely displaced abundance. Giving thought and attention and energy to matter is what makes something a piece of art.”
Aurora Robson – Re:fuse runs until Sept. 1.
This exhibition is funded in part by a grant from the Puffin Foundation West.