A metal shore too sharp to touch, chilled metal beach chairs, and glacier-blue, waxen sliced fruit make up the topsy-turvy world of Bethany Springer’s Seismic Reflection, which recently closed at Twin Kittens [April 11-May 24, 2013]. Springer flips sensory and material conventions on their heads, thus calling attention to the quick associations we make in our daily movements through the world. The works in Seismic Reflection offer tongue-in-cheek presentations of ordinary objects, but the confluence of disparate works renders her deeper themes incoherent.
A residency in Newfoundland brought Springer into direct contact with a local population dealing with visible climate change and the depletion of their natural resources. Springer, as a visitor to the island, encountered the excesses of tourist consumption—for example, in the form of icebergs chipped into ice cubes for drinks—and locals who treated her as an outsider. But there were others who found her a willing confidant, and disclosed their concerns for the fishing industry that sustains them and fears surround the influx of oil tankers and miners that threaten to destroy the land.
These experiences became the impetus for Seismic Reflection, though the geopolitical themes are not always evident in the works. The titular piece, Seismic Reflection (2013), features folding lawn chairs updated in polished aluminum placed along a sheet of galvanized mesh, folded to resemble the surf lolling in tide pools. Styrofoam blocks glazed with white paint lie scattered about like discarded plastic toys. On an adjacent wall are Springer’s Edible Arrangements (2013), blue-coated fruit-shaped Styrofoam displays combining dried foliage and antique silver platters to create strange, inedible cornucopias. Together, Seismic Reflection and the Edible Arrangements form a space in which commonplace objects are stripped of their utility, and raw materials are made-up to resemble consumer products. The resulting sculptures comically assimilate and upend convention but, in conjunction, seem thematically constrained. By transforming the chairs into stark, unwelcoming structures and Styrofoam into fruit-like inedible shapes, Springer reaches towards disparate ideas that undermine each other’s effect. The fruit offers critiques of consumption and decoration, while the metal chairs and waves seem focused on environmental concerns. The clash of ideas has a negating effect, leaving the viewer with only their shared attributions, namely the “icy” blue and silver exhibition palette and a formal play on materials.
A deeper engagement with the photography and video works in Seismic Reflection is too contingent on their background. Signal-to-Noise Ratio (2012), a time lapsed video of ice cubes—likely glacial—melting while an oil tanker passes in the distance recalls a Corona ad more than anything, due to the focus on the sweating glass and the contextual influence of the Edible Arrangements on the next wall. Though an emphasis on advertising techniques is the most apparent theme in the video, this seems happenstance rather than intentional. The photographs of a net woven on a clothesline in Newfoundland suffer from a muddled concept: The yellow nylon of the net cuts messy lines through the backyard, having the effect of tangled fishing nets on shore. It’s not clear if Springer is aiming for artist-as-tortured-Arachne, making a statement as to pollution, or calling attention to her feelings of alienation as a tourist in the tight-knit Newfoundland community.
Though the works in Seismic Reflection all take Springer’s experiences in Newfoundland as their starting point, the works extend into too many disparate themes and mediums to have a coherent message. Springer’s sculptures are her strongest works, but would benefit from a greater focus and refinement of components.
House rules for commenting:
1. Please use a full first name. We do not support hiding behind anonymity.
2. All comments on BURNAWAY are moderated. Please be patient—we’ll do our best to keep up, but sometimes it may take us a bit to get to all of them.
3. BURNAWAY reserves the right to refuse or reject comments.
4. We support critically engaged arguments (both positive and negative), but please don’t be a jerk, ok? Comments should never be personally offensive in nature.