A new art exhibit on humanity’s reliance on plastic is currently on display at the Chazen Museum of Art.
The exhibit, called Plastic Entanglements: Ecology, Aesthetics, Materials, originated at the Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State.
Chazen Museum of Art editor Kirstin Pires says the exhibition takes a broad view of the ubiquitous – and invisible – role of plastics within global society.
“It’s sort of organized around three different concepts,” says Piries.
“One is the archive; so, what are the artefacts left over from the past in terms of plastic, which, obviously, doesn’t go back too far. Then [the exhibit looks at] what’s happening right now, and then sort of the speculative future; so what is the future of plastic both helpful and harmful to the earth and to human-kind. And there are examples of each of those things in each of those sections as interpreted by different artists.”
The exhibit’s current stop in Madison is unique for two reasons.
First, the Chazen is subsidizing school groups coming to see the exhibition by helping cover transportation costs.
Second, the museum partnered with Wisconsin Sea Grant, a statewide research and education program dedicated to the sustainable use of the nation’s water, to design an educational tour that incorporates pieces from both Plastic Entanglements and the Chazen’s permanent connection.
The museum’s assistant curator of education, Adrian Rich, says the tour aims to demonstrate the relevance of sustainability issues in students’ lives.
“The tour is mainly focused on artworks that deal with issues of the environment, and it incorporates both in the ‘Plastic Entanglements’ exhibition and in our permanent collection,” Rich notes.
“It deals with a variety of issues in the environment, but the main themes of the tour are focused on materiality, so, what is the material that makes up the work of art and how does that impact the work? [The tour is] also looking at messaging by the artist and the message that viewers get when they look at the work of art, and then also thinking about the environmental impact that is shown in the work of art.”
While the new tour is geared towards students from 3rd to 8th grade, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s education coordinator Anne Moser says the general exhibit addresses issues all Wisconsinites, indeed all people, should be concerned about, regardless of age.
“This exhibit we created for school-age children, but I think a lot of us are beginning to think about our own plastic footprint,” says Moser.
“Straws got a lot of attention recently, but that is really just a little, minuscule sliver of what we’re thinking about in terms of plastic in our lives. So, regardless of what your age is, it’s kinda something people are thinking about, and I think for a lot of folks they’re trying to make a difference and trying to make some changes in their life, and when you go to this exhibit it gives you some moments to think about this.”
Plastic Entanglements is on display at the Chazen until January of next year.
The public has several opportunities to interact with the exhibit.
Families can learn about the microplastics that make up clothing items at an event this Saturday at 1pm.
Next week Saturday, Chazen director Amy Gilman will speak with Erin Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art, about the exhibition.