Two stirring MFA thesis projects just went up in the Greensboro Project Space on West Lewis Street. The pieces by Caroline Bugby and Joyce Watkins King each focused in their own way on how much material we waste and where that waste goes.
The artists’ pieces focused on the waste of industrial material and clothing respectively. The space provided by The Forge was inviting and creative as usual. It is always compelling to see how artists construct new worlds and realities through their work, and especially when their mediums are out of the ordinary to the point where they push the realm of possibility.
“Fossiling the Tideline” was an evocative piece that made use of construction debris to show that even matter that many would consider to be trash can be used to make structures that are beautiful and thought-provoking. Many of her sculptures featured foam insulation and the crinkly, shiny tubing that one would expect to find under a crawl space rather than a Master’s student’s art exhibit.
When I spoke with Ms. Bugby, she said that she wanted to focus on readily available objects that are usually concealed in whatever they are used to make. There was a sculpture that made use of the green plastic fences one often sees on construction sites, a tire, pieces of ripped up tarp, foam insulation and several balls of aluminum foil.There was even a previously discarded wooden stand that was made took like one of those rigs that they unfurl cords from at concerts. Bugby later clarified to me that the sculpture is a Silver Dredger. The way that it captured the light coming through the window and cast its shadow was eye-catching to say the very least.
A personal favorite of her pieces was a sculpture that looked like both a heat lamp and a flying saucer. The sculpture looked to be made from an old electric blanket and some orange plastic construction, balled up to look like lights on the underside of the construct. It sat in the corner, as if to be hidden from the patrons.
Joyce Watkins King’s “Sewing in the Shadows: Disposable Garments, Disposable People?” used people’s cloth waste as the focal point of the exhibit. Watkins King’s pieces like “Jeans Geology” and “Jeans Topography” do a chilling job of showing how much of our clothing ends up in landfills.
Speaking with King, she stated that she wanted her work to center on fast fashion and how it hurts the fashion industry and the environment. Fast fashion has come to be used as a descriptor by fashion retailers to express that designs move from catwalk to mall clothing racks in order to capture current fashion trends. Popular fast fashion brands include H&M, Zara and Topshop. The cost of fast fashion is that it further underpays workers who pull painstaking hours and already make depressingly little. It also adversely affects the environment because the more clothing people buy, the more clothing they throw away.
Watkins King said that, according to her research, the average American acquires sixty four new garments per year and wear each an average of seven times before discarding them. According to The Council for Textile Recycling, the average American household throws away 70 pounds of textile waste every year. If one were to extrapolate those numbers to represent the entire country, there is roughly 10.5 million tons of textile waste being thrown away.
My favorite piece of her’s was a laundromat rack hanging in the middle of the showroom featuring many men’s, women’s, and children’s dress shirts with everything but the collars, shoulders, buttons, and wrist cuffs cut out. I feel that “Sewing in the Shadows: Disposable Garments, Disposable People?” was intended to make viewers question their fashion choices in the least materialistically focused way. It is meant to make people consider how their purchases affect those who work hard to make it and how the clothing’s disposal hurts our environment.
I enjoy this time of year a great deal because of the sheer amount of fantastic artistic talent being showcased through the various MFA theses. It is thoroughly humbling to see what someone’s creative mind can do when given the proper resources to express themselves fully.