Beauty Among the Refuse

Definition of Abscission:
1. the natural process by which leaves or other parts are shed from a plant
2. the act of suddenly cutting something off

"Abscission" features objects so common as to be invisible. Photo: Dane Gregory Meyer

Artist Julie M. Jansen says that all the objects in her new installation, Abscission, have two things in common: Each item was hand-collected by herself, and each is deemed unnecessary or unwanted by most people. The inventory includes torn up cardboard, blue masking tape, remnant paint and, somewhat creepily, invasive plant species (collected from nurseries in her hometown of Portland). The latter – homicidal members of the vegetable world – when introduced to alien turf go on to strangle, starve or otherwise corrupt vulnerable native species. But in Jansen’s hands, this lineup of undesirables assembles itself along with inanimate objects into a larger-than-life collage; one that speaks to the idea of a life cycle for every item we mindlessly insert into the consumer chain. Unfortunately, we lose control over such objects once they leave our hands, with untold consequences.

"Debris" by Julie Jansen

Other elements that make up Abscission, such as remnant paint given to the artist by friends, “are ordinary [items], quickly discarded, and so ingrained in everyday life that we no longer see them.” Cardboard flats are cut into shapes resembling land forms, or the layers on a topographical map. “By gathering unwanted items and using them in my work I am engaging in a process encompassing concepts of displacement, temporality, and place,” she says.

Jansen has nurtured invasive species for previous projects, and she’s interested in how once an aggressive species takes hold in an environment, “an entire industry of weed-killing chemicals” must follow to exterminate it. “Humans are poisoning water sources along with desirable plants and crops,” she says. “One reason I am focusing on invasive plants in this installation is because I question the methods used to destroy them.

“Another intention of this work is to cause individuals to rethink their relationships to these plants and hopefully find beauty in something that is usually undesired. Within this concept I see a metaphor for many aspects of human life; in our society we quickly deem objects and even individuals unnecessary and discard them accordingly.” Abscission, the Woolworth Building, 11th & Broadway, March 22 – July 1.

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