Known for her large-scale, site-specific installations, New York-based artist Tara Donovan has earned acclaim for transforming how people view everyday objects and for making the ordinary extraordinary.
Toothpicks, drinking straws, plastic cups, plastic sheets and pencils. To many, these items are simply the mundane objects of everyday life. For Tara Donovan, however, they offer untapped potential to create monumental sculptural compositions inspired by the complex geometries found in nature.
“Everyday materials are often connected to personal experience, so people viewing my work often experience a kind of evolving gestalt, where the sculpture breaks down into discrete, recognizable units,” Donovan said. “I began working with everyday materials because they were cheap and mass-produced, but I’ve always been interested in how materials behave visually in a population. Many of my early works explore this concept.”
DISPELLING THE INSPIRATION MYTH
Donovan, who said she is motivated “materially and aesthetically” by the generative aspects of process art and by post-minimalist sculptors including Jacqueline “Jackie” Winsor, Richard Serra and Eva Hesse, knew she wanted to be an artist from an early age. However, she does not believe that artists are “suddenly struck with a divine vision” when creating art. Instead, she likens her process to that of a scientist or an architect.
“It’s very satisfying to indulge myself with problems only I can solve, so I let the inherent qualities of the materials dictate the entire creation process,” she said. “Initially, I explore the physical properties of a single material, then I assemble a basic unit that can be reproduced and aggregated with other materials. This helps me develop an almost mechanical process for producing an installation at immense scale. I rely heavily on the architectural and contextual parameters of the exhibition site to complete each installation.”
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