One of the benefits of receiving a Creative Pinellas grant is the opportunity to meet with a mentor throughout the grant period. And, as an added bonus, I was able to request a specific artist whose approach resonated with me. I chose an artist whose devotion to her work is evident in her history of showing and creating. I chose an artist who specializes in installation art. You may ask how this type of art relates to what I do, and it really comes down to the ability of a piece of art to transform the space where it lives. While I currently rely on two-dimensional paintings to achieve this goal, I also plan to venture further into this realm of thought-provoking, three-dimensional projects. Thus, meet Babs Reingold.
Babs has worked as a painter but is currently and primarily showing installation pieces. The work entitled, "The Last Tree," really caught my attention when I first discovered her work. See below:
In this installation, Babs confronts the effect of humanity on Earth's resources. Using fabric and human hair, she created 193 tree stumps to represent the countries of the world, accompanied by background video and sound projections of trees being cut down. One tree is left standing and begs our consideration of what is happening in our environment. The materials she has chosen to use, notably human hair, echo our presence in the destruction of forests. Because of the scale of the work and the space it requires, the piece demands nothing short of your full attention. Another of her notable installations is called "Hung Out in the Projects":
"Hung Out in the Projects" uses space to direct our attention to the over-abundance of poverty. Rust and tea-stained fabrics hang from clotheslines strung between old windows while the lights fade on and off intermittently and sounds of city noises play from a boombox in a trash cash.
By transforming space in a monumental way, Babs gives us an "alternate reality". On a daily basis, we see news on the internet or in the headlines of newspapers about the destruction of our environment and about poverty, but those sources are easily overlooked or discarded with yesterday's news. Art installations of this grandeur, on the other hand, insist we stop and think. I greatly admire her ability to weave relevant materials together in a way that shows us just how humanity's presence is acting and evolving.
Babs' most recent installation is now housed at the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg. "The Last Tree: Squared" brings many of the elements of The Last Tree together in a condensed, yet new way. The humanity is still present in the form of human hair within the trunk, as a limp animal at the forefront, and this time in the steel frames dividing each section. On the opposite side of the room, a small window gives escape by way of a hair-woven ladder connected to a second limp animal. It asks if the animal escaped or if humanity found its way:
The art asks the questions, and we must provide the answers. I am honored to have Babs as a mentor, and I thank her for carrying me on her back for a couple of months to show me the ropes. Her installation is on view through October 1 at the MFA in St. Petersburg. Visit her website at babsreingold.com.