Waiting for the Big One



A previous Spaceworks post noted the circus-sideshow atmosphere of the current political season, and the resultant shock-and-awe effect upon voters, including artists. Ashflow, an installation by Nola Avienne at the Woolworth Windows, S. 11th and Commerce, taps into the zeitgeist. Her artwork, depicting a sculptural volcano and “still life of a pyroclastic eruption” isolates the moment before catastrophe (political, social, ecological – take your pick) strikes.

“Ashflow” by Nola Avienne.

Ashflow portrays the unreal stillness just before disaster hits, the moment of heightened senses when minute details are perceived,” said Avienne. “This volcano portrait includes impact craters, the slow advance of Pahoehoe lava, [the] vertical thrust of volcanic strata, and the rain of ash holding its breath for a brief second.” Her use of ugly, blatantly artificial materials such as construction spray foam, packing tape and panty hose amplifies the work’s sense of havoc, and its meta-distance from unalloyed nature. “Still life with volcano encompasses the experience of danger at a distance becoming beautiful,” she explained.

I choose materials that evoke a visceral response, suggesting seduction, repulsion, fragility or protection. I thrive on the alchemy of chance, unpredictable occurrences in materials that allow the environment of a work to emerge.”

“Circles of Square” by Nola Avienne. Courtesy photo

Avienne’s previous work has included fascinating experiments with mediums such as magnets and blood. Her series with magnets, especially, evokes a sense of wonder at the powerful, unseen properties of nature. These sculptures, covered in amazing, fur-like pelts of iron filings, have a harmonious sensibility absent in the manmade disaster of Ashflow.

“In my studio practice, my work has developed progressively through the investigation and negotiation of the tensions between art and science, chaos and order, humor and discomfort,” she said. Centuries ago, the poet William Blake described such creative tensions poetically, in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: “Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate are necessary to Human existence.”

“Hairpiece for Bjork” by Nola Avienne. Courtesy photo

Like artists before her, Avienne explores these polarities seeking how and where synthesis and transformation occur. This election season, with its pitched battles between news and entertainment, political process and vaudeville, offers no shortage of material.  – Lisa Kinoshita

Ashflow is at the Woolworth Windows, S. 11th & Commerce, through Nov.17, 2016. See more of Nola Avienne’s work at http://nolaavienne.com/.