I wrote this for an art class I was taking in the spring of 2006.  I don’t feel as connected to this piece as I did then, but I still feel that it is a solid piece describing the connection between the viewer and the artwork.  I had never heard of Roxy Paine before this assignment.  If I remember correctly, the only thing I read about him was the article that I found in ArtNews.  Since the newest work that I cited was made in 2005, I’d guess that the article was from that year, but our instructor told us not to include a Works Cited page, so I can’t say for sure.  Something in the back of my brain is telling me to look up the April 2005 issue… if that pans out, I will try to include a link to it, or at least cite it here.  For more on the works of Roxy Paine, check out his website at http://www.roxypaine.com

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Before I set my hands on that old volume of ArtNews, I knew that I would find something special inside.  I opened the book to the  contents page, and I immediately saw something that caught my eye.  It was the artwork of Roxy Paine, a contemporary artist whose work makes a clear statement to myself.  After reading the article about him, I knew I was not alone.

For some time now, I have toyed with the idea of a clash of the wilderness of nature and the orderliness of man.  Anytime I see an abandoned man made structure overrun by plant life, I marvel at the versatility of nature and her ability to conquer man.  At the same time, I marvel at man’s ingenuity to design something  that can stand up against nature and stay strong for years.  I wonder what future generations will see and think about us when they cross the ruins of our society centuries from now.

Roxy Paine embodies these ideas in his artwork, to some extent.  For example, his Weed Choked Garden of 2005 seems to be a satire of suburban life.  The suburb dweller works especially hard to keep weeds out of his or her lawn and garden, yet nature always manages to escape these attempts at control.  Always, some “good” plants will survive, while others are laid to ruin.

In a museum, an installation of realistic looking tomatoes and other plants left unattended and choked out by weeds.

Weed Choked Garden, 1998-2006

Furthermore, Paine adds to a sense of collision with his stainless steel sculptures of trees.  These he places in parks–“pretenders” among the real trees.  To me, it feels like the perfect marriage of nature and machine.

Two steel trees with branches outstretched towards one another.

Conjoined, 2007

In addition to his parody of suburbia, Paine adds his commentary on art and the creation of  art.  He produces nature sculptures with the precision and detail of a photorealist painter.  His amazing attention to detail leads one to second guess his or her eyes.  I marvel at his process.  He takes an organic object and reproduces it with meticulous, machine-like detail.  Likewise, he uses machines to create abstract artworks.  One example is his PMU (Painting Manufacturing Unit, 1999-2000).  This machine has an arm which spurts white paint onto a canvas at regular intervals.

A machine sprays white paint onto a canvas, leaving paint drying to various depths.

PMU, 2001

Lastly, Paine has an obsession with the virulent and toxic nature of some plants, especially, fungi.  Coming to maturity in the hippie era, Paine experimented with many drugs. His artwork is a reflection of this.  He has sculptures of poppy fields and mushroom fields in abundance.

A field of mushrooms appears to grow from a plain white platform.

Amanita Muscaria Field, 2000

His dedication to these plants is fascinating.  To me, it is like he is stripping away their power by constantly manufacturing harmless versions of them.  He is facing his fear of that which use to control his life.  Therein lies a lesson for all of us, a silent reminder to confront and conquer your fears before they consume you.

I am fascinated by the life and work of Roxy Paine.  I connect with his work on a deeper level because I can see similarities between his philosophies and mine.  I only hope that my work can be as moving and inspiring as his in the future.

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