Surface Appearances and Impositions

"Pointing" by Amy Bay. Molding clay applied to various walls in Lower Manhattan.

“I often draw attention to parts of a site that might otherwise be unnoticed or taken for granted,” writes Portland, OR-based artist Amy Bay. “I do this through a kind of mimicry or replication of forms found at the site, often whittling them down to quintessential elements.  This comes from a personal tendency to find meaning and importance in things that are considered commonplace or banal.” Objects such as building brick, for instance, which she chose to outline in lipstick red on an exterior wall for an installation in Manhattan. Bay’s isolation of the mundane describes, to borrow the words of artist John Baldessari, a personal “hierarchy of viewing.”

"Resurfacing (stones)" by Amy Bay, at the Carriage House of the Islip Art Museum, NY.

For Spaceworks Tacoma, Bay is conceiving a site-specific installation in the Woolworth Building where blackberry brambles – summer’s sweet harbinger, but also among the most hard-to-defeat of invasive species – fan out along the walls and floor inside a storefront window; in the background, empty shelving and the remains of a once thriving, now defunct commercial enterprise can be seen. Which force – that of nature or capitalism – will ultimately prevail?

“Both worlds are capable of vacillating between extremes, the commercial world between prosperity and depression, and the natural world between bounty and invasion,” she writes. “Commercial enterprises can bind a community socially and economically, yet fail and abandon the same community that they once served. Blackberries are a source of delicious fruit, but can also be an omnipresent nuisance.” That the newly occupying brambles will be made from molding clay assures them a blatantly false, cartoonish quality “reminiscent of toys [or] faux nature in theme parks….while adding a dimension of discomfort because of the invasive nature of the plant.” Observe the battle for dominance in the Woolworth windows, 11th & Broadway, July 15 – October 31, 2011.

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