Commercialization, Pollution, Destruction: Art 500 Exhibition Returns to Nature

Following a trail of colorful balloons lining the pathways of the Sanctuary, members of the Andover community strolled into an array of artwork by this year’s Art 500 students, Emilia Figliomeni ’14, Shanice Pimentel ’14 and Emmie Avvakumova ’14.

When creating these pieces, the students in Art 500 focused more on artistic concept and process than aesthetics.

Figliomeni created multiple small, nature-inspired pieces meant to be tongue-in-cheek recreations of professional pieces found in museums. In each of these pieces, Figliomeni used natural materials like pine needles, dead trees and pine cones.

One of Figliomeni’s works, “Pile of Pine Needles,” is a small, dome-shaped pile of dried, multi-colored pine needles stacked at the foot of a tall, leafless pine tree. Above the pile is a sign that reads, “DO NOT TOUCH.”

Complementary to “Pile of Pine Needles,” “Fallen Tree” consists of two logs, dead and lying atop of one another. Moss in the logs’ crevices adds to the feeling of time passing. Even though the pockmarked logs were donated by the American Lumber Company, they died and disintegrated naturally.

“I was kind of comparing commercializing nature to commercializing art. So that’s the idea behind having [a paper that explains] the corporations have ‘donated’ he pieces and having the ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ and ‘NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY’ signs,” said Figliomeni.

As the visitors to the exhibition walked through the clearing, they encountered a large web of white, red and blue yarn strands suspended between two tree trunks. The trees surrounding the web had long pieces of yarn looped around the trunks. Four empty plastic water bottles were interwoven in the web.

Pimentel, the artist behind the web, said that she was inspired by the concept of spider webs as naturally-occurring dreamcatchers.

“I decided to wrap up the water bottles in the spider web to [convey the effects of] pollution. And so, [the web] is what I feel like if nature was to have a dream. It’s just a message especially about pollution and how we should be taking care of the nature and Mother Earth,” explained Pimentel.

According to Therese Zemlin, Instructor and Chair in Art, Pimentel’s final product is completely different from her original project proposal.

“Whether or not the finished product resembles the proposal is not as important as the discovery and exploration that occurs in the art creation process,” said Zemlin.

The combination of the natural setting of the Sanctuary and the nature-themed exhibition made the installation more dramatic. Down a small hill, visitors were confronted by a black, dangling skeleton hanging by clear plastic strings from a branch over a pond. In constructing the figure entirely from intricately twisted wire, Avvakumova tried to create a piece that would speak to individuals.

“Recently, I’ve been trying to address more personal issues in my art, rather than creating something for the sake of it,” said Avvakumova. “I’ve been thinking a lot about concepts, so this piece is about self destruction. It’s quite prickly and it’s supposed to symbolize the inside of self-destructiveness — kind of playing around with the physical and the mental.”

Avvakumova labored for hours to make the life-size sculpture. Each limb is accurate down to the detail of the proportions of natural bone thickness.

“It took about thirty or forty hours [for me to complete the project],” said Avvakumova. “I had to make the bones one by one by twisting the wires.”

“I really liked the concept behind Emmie’s piece. First of all, the wires were black, and it showed [how] the self destruction that exists within our souls eats us alive, and that’s why it’s [represented] as a skeleton. It was a very well put together concept,” said Allison Carcoana ’16.

The pieces displayed in the Sanctuary will be transferred to the Gelb Gallery.