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Artist Aurora Robson’s largest exhibition coming to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens

Anne Evans Anne Evans Artist Aurora Robson’s largest exhibition coming to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
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It continues to baffle me that one can still find plastic bottles and other litter alongside our roadways and waterways. Groups like Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed (FLOW) and Keep Columbus Beautiful regularly schedule cleanups to beautify areas of the city. FLOW has been saving the plastic water bottles found in their last few cleanups to be used in a creative new way this fall at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The Conservatory will be displaying multi-media artist Aurora Robson’s largest exhibit yet, Sacrifice + Bliss from September 9, 2012 through April 28, 2013.

“At the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, we are always looking to integrate art with the plants,” says Marketing Director Lori Kingston. “Nature inspires art and art inspires nature.” The Conservatory has been curating exhibits that enhance this sentiment, such as Bending Nature from 2008 and Savage Gardens from 2010. With last summer’s exhibit, Hungry Planet: Local Food, Global View, the Conservatory began a series of exhibits focused on conservation. Sacrifice + Bliss is the second part of that series.

Artist Aurora Robson with Landmine #1.

Robson will use the plastic bottles provided by FLOW to create a new piece, The Quality of Mercy, for the Sacrifice + Bliss exhibit that will be displayed in the Himalayan Biome. Robson’s husband, cinematographer Marshall Coles, will integrate solar powered fiber optics into the piece, giving it a warm glow.

Born in 1972 in Toronto, Canada, Robson grew up in Hawaii, then moved to New York City where she lived and worked the past twenty years. It was during her time in Hawaii that she discovered a deep appreciation for nature. She returned to the islands for an artist residency and created Kamilo, a sculpture completely made of plastic debris found on the Southern Point of The Big Island.

Her medium wasn’t always plastics and junk mail. She had been creating paintings of landscapes about her own nightmares and she found success with that. One day while out thrifting, she ran into a professor from her time at Columbia University who told her that she was definitely a sculptor and asked when she was going to start making sculptures. It was an idea that she had not really thought possible, but later at her studio in Brooklyn, she watched out the window as the sun reflected on a pile of garbage. It was at that moment that she realized that she wanted to create sculpture and what she wanted to use plastic debris to do it.

Intercepting the waste stream to create something beautiful is a prominent theme in Robson’s work. In her sculptures, waste is elevated and given a level of sophistication. No paints or hardware were used to create Kamilo, the sculpture was simply threaded together with fishing nylon that washed ashore. The components collected for Kamilo accumulated on the Southern Point’s shore from places all over the Pacific.

Kamilo, 2011. Approximately 4' around x 4 1/2' tall. Photographed by Marshall Coles.

During Sacrifice + Bliss, Kamilo will find a home above the koi pond in the Pacific Island Biome. The colors in the sculpture will complement the colors of the fish and artwork in the pond. “Plus there’s the whole idea that it came out of the water,” says Kingston.

Be Like Water is an installation made out of 10,000 plastic bottles and 50,000 bottle caps collected by children at seven schools in Philadelphia. Currently, there are sections of the piece displayed in other locations. For Sacrifice + Bliss, there will be a section displayed in the Grand Atrium, where it will be suspended from the glass ceiling. Some pieces may be reachable. As a whole, Be Like Water creates the illusion of a bloom of jellyfish and is simply stunning.

Be Like Water, 2010 - 2011. Originally approx 25' tall x 120' long x 14' wide - variable depending on re-installation configurations. Comprised of approximately 40,000 plastic bottle caps and 9,000 discarded plastic bottles. Photographed by Marshall Coles.

Robson was in Columbus a few weeks ago to start work on her sculptures that will be integrated into the landscape at the Conservatory. Landmine #1 and Landmine #2 will be on display in the interior outdoor garden. The sculptures are 4′ around and 3 1/2′ tall. They are darker interpretations, created from discarded PET plastic bottles, tinted polycrylic, rivets and mica powder.

To Robson, the Landmines represent what happens when we try to “bury this negative thing” that is plastic waste. “It doesn’t go away, it comes back up to haunt you.”

For Sacrifice + Bliss, the Landmines will be integrated into the landscape as every crevice of each one is filled with plant life. Then they will be left alone to be consumed by nature. It will be the first time Robson’s work has been integrated back into nature in this way. The Landmines will become part of the Conservatory’s permanent collection. A time-lapse film is being made to document nature’s take over of the sculpture.

Landmine #1 which will become fully integrated into the Conservatory's landscape and become part of the permanent collection.

“It’s a sacrifice for me to let the Landmines be taken over,” says Robson. “But if there weren’t messages in the work, I wouldn’t be happy doing it.”

For more about artist Aurora Robson, please visit her website at www.aurorarobson.com. You can view videos about her discussing her work here.

Sacrifice + Bliss opens at The Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens on September 9, 2012. It will be a part of the Future Celebration of Columbus’ Bicentennial. The exhibit will continue through April 28, 2013. The Franklin Park Conservatory is located at 1777 East Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43203. They are open daily from 10am to 5pm and on Wednesdays from 10am to 8pm. Admission is $11 adults, $9 seniors and students with valid ID, $6 children 3-17, under age 2 FREE. Memberships are also available. Visit them online at www.fpconservatory.org.

For more information on FLOW and upcoming cleanups where you can get involved, please visit their website at www.olentangywatershed.org. Their next cleanup will be on June 2, 2012 at Glen Echo Park.

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