ART THAT SURPRISES YOU

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One of the saddest things I hear an artist say is: “It’s all been done before.” A defeatist idea that over the last thousand years artists have explored all possible content varieties and every style from hyper-real to completely abstract. While it’s true that artists enjoy ripping off pre-existing cultural content, that lifting does not prove 100% original work is impossible. It’s just very difficult. It’s far easier to appropriate and work by “intentional borrowing, copying, and alteration of preexisting images and objects” (quoted from MOMA’s catalog.)

The great thing you get from original work is a feeling of surprise. The sense of “I never thought of that.” Or “who would think to do that?” Surprise can arrive in many small ways. Novel use of materials, odd content juxtapositions, or by radically changing scale as in Claes Oldenberg’s gigantic 45-tall sculpture “Clothespin.”

Author Nassim Taleeb discusses unexpected surprises via the idea of “the black swan.” This is a logical proposition. We all know each and every swan is supposed to be white. However, you only need to find one black swan to prove that black swans are possible. Similarly, you only need to see one radically original art object to know that surprises in art can still exist in 2019.

Today’s good example is Erinn Pavese’s bone sculptures. Pavese finds female poultry farmers that are willing to sell her the unused body parts of thousands of chickens, ducks, etc. She extracts and processes the bones and assembles them into exquisitely beautiful abstracted bio-formal displays. The sculptures evoke dead coral, floral wedding bouquets, snowy orchids, and other fractally-repeating biological forms.

Pavese is not the first artist to do bone-assemblage sculpture. Tokushige Hideki and John Paul Azzopardi have both used bone to make very cool representational sculptures. Where Pavese hits a home run is in the “form meets formless” ambiguous quality of her work. When you work with bones, there’s another layer of interest and meaning: if you wanted to, you could muse about carnivore consumption, industrial food waste, or other hot-button eco-geek causes. None of that tops the basic abstract-fractal biological beauty of her bone sculptures.

Check her work out at the website. http://www.erinnpaveseart.com