Though her work may feature recycled materials, garbage and even plants, installation artist Phoebe Washburn (NC '96) wouldn't exactly call her work a political statement about the environment.
"My art is more playful than political," says Washburn.
"I'm trying to find ways to map out space, to show systems. And in finding ways to have all that, I began using recycled materials and finding new purposes for things."
The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Washburn has made quite the splash around the world with her work, which has been displayed from Los Angeles to Denmark. The prestigious Whitney Museum 2008 Biennial in New York recognized her work, and her reputation continues to grow.
Washburn's work is visually striking and complex. Consider her piece Nunderwater Nort Lab, a 2011 creation that took up the main space at Zach Feuer, the New York gallery that represents her. The piece was centered around a massive cylindrical structure constructed out of reused two-by-fours. Audio was pumped in, while objects such as growing green plants under lights and used Gatorade pouches were posed.
Her 2013 installation, Pressure Drop for Richard Strands (a history of one thing to another in lemon-aideness) at Kunsthallen Brants in Odense, Denmark, was a large interactive system set into motion by museum visitors' "thirst."
Washburn's pieces are labor intensive. Before she works, she will visit a potential site, draw sketches, and then craft a proposal for a piece. Wahsburn notes that most of the final construction for her installations takes place inside the venue.
"I build parts and components ahead of time in my studio but ultimately most of the construction is done on-site. It all comes together at the very end," she says. "The process is exciting. But it can also be stressful."
Right now, Washburn is taking time off from creating new pieces. She's busy with her baby daughter, Irie, born in April. Washburn's husband and Irie's father is A.j. Bocchino (TC '96).
- Andrew Clark, Tulanian, September 2013