Artists Juxtapose Machines And Nature
Fisher Hall was transformed once more this past weekend, marking the third senior art show in this semester’s series. A reception on Friday night kicked off an exhibition of diverse works by Naomi Cogan Rosenberg and Celeste Eustis.
Rosenberg’s project displays her thesis, “Body and Society as Machine.” Her perspective is based on how “systems and patterns are integral to our lives, communities and the ways our bodies function.”
The largest of her works in the exhibition, Ultimate Machine, appears to be a factory producing life-sized human bodies in various stages of completion. The “factory” itself is a freestanding structure: three tall elliptical wooden frames with galvanized steel-wire chains attached. The “bodies,” wire sculptures covered in papier-mâché, extend out from the structure in a line. Two smaller interactive pieces are also on display.
“Small Machine #1” is a small construction of steel wire, fishing line and found objects standing on a wooden pedestal. The viewer is invited to rotate a wire handle on the machine that turns its wiry spindles. “Heartbeat Machine,” similarly, is made with found materials, such as a faucet piece, and stands upon a wooden pedestal. When the handle is rotated on this one, wire “gear” pieces turn and flick a stiff piece of paper to make a “thump thump” sound.
“I am the factory, I am the machine — I [expletive] made these chains,” she said, amusedly marveling at the intense labor involved in creating wire chains from scratch for Ultimate Machine.
Putting together the pieces of the project required a great deal of work, as one could see by looking at the preliminary plans on display in the walled off section of the gallery, which the two students used as a “workshop” presentation to show their audience the processes involved. Rosenberg’s plans included tallies of the materials needed and diagrams of the spatial layout of Ultimate Machine.
The project was a culmination of many of Rosenberg’s artistic experiences at Oberlin and elsewhere. The wire and papier-mâché bodies were crafted using the figure drawing techniques she has been developing at Oberlin and at summer open studios.
Rosenberg prioritized cost-efficiency in her project by using found materials, the Art Department’s abundant supply of brown butcher paper and bulk quantities of wire and wood.
“I love painting, I love traditional artist stuff, but I’m really cheap. I could never be a painter. So this is a good solution to that problem,” she said.
Rosenberg’s constructions are an impressive sight: Ultimate Machine presents an interesting image of human bodies. Its different pieces — the sculptures and the structures — fit together to create a unified whole.
In her own artistic endeavors, Celeste Eustis explores her fascination with the natural world.
“Clouds, treetops, plants and natural forms found in architectural detail inspire me,” Eustis said.
Her exhibition featured three large oil paintings and three drawings of charcoal and ink.
The large red painting and blue paintings on display were similar in their use of pointy, detailed shapes and deep colors. Eustis created the effect with impasto techniques (painting thick layers) and the use of a stencil instead of a brush. While the paint was still wet, she painted over with a different color and tone and pressed the stencil to use it like a stamp or a wax seal.
Eustis creates her own stencils using a ruler and a compass. Several of her stencils and her sketches of landscapes were on display in the “workshop” section of the exhibit.
Her stenciling played a more traditional role in the other painting at the exhibition, standing out like a rosette. She describes this painting as “monochromatic and experimental.” The primary image resembles tree branches. Eustis explained that while she originally intended to paint a very literal image of a tree and a road, the final product was something more abstract.
The three drawings showed three different images of clouds, two in charcoal and one in ink.
Eustis’s paintings are most impressive from a close distance. The use of angular three-dimensional shapes creates an interesting effect on the canvas of the dark red and blue paintings. All her works are untitled. Her fascination with such images as “the negative space between tree branches” exemplifies her unique artistic perspective.
The works of Rosenberg and Eustis took on a deeper meaning for gallery viewers as they complemented each other in scope, material and ideas.
“For me, art is such a part of my existence that I couldn’t imagine not doing it,” Eustis said. “I feel like I’m at a point where there’s a huge world I’ve just stepped into.”