currents7 artist sculpts photographs in sand

The newest exhibition at the Colby Museum is called currents7: The seventh installment of the Currents installations at Colby. It is a collection of photography and sculpture by artist Elizabeth Atterbury. The Portland-based artist has extended her mainly photographic practices into sculpture, creating a show that is dynamic in its exploration of the two-dimensional and three-dimensional worlds.

Upon entering the exhibit, the viewer is greeted by the show’s biggest sculpture, “The Well”. It sits in the middle of the room, drawing immediate attention. The geometric waves of the piece, one can only assume, represent water. This piece sets the tone for the entire show.

Atterbury’s other photographs and sculptures are just as geometric as “The Well”. The composition of each piece is created purely through different shapes. The shapes relate to create an abstracted representation of something concrete in the world. The way each object is placed in relation to others ignites a story or setting that the viewer can understand is there but cannot accurately identify.

Atterbury works with malleable materials such as paper and sand to create various figures or patterns.. She then takes a picture of the work to document the transitory display of objects. The photographs are a documentation of the work, but they also take the 3D aspect and make it 2D.

The titles of each painting are the only hint as to what the interplaying forms represent. Works such as “Singing and Dancing” (2014) and “Sleeping and Dreaming” (2014), without the titles, are merely groups of objects composed in such a way that activates the photograph. However, the title reveals the message the artist is trying to convey to the viewers. This type of communication strengthens the artist’s connection to the audience while allowing the viewer to further understand the work. The viewer can find the singing and the dancing as well as the sleeping and the dreaming in the forms.

Atterbury has stripped down the representation of familiar forms to their most minimal indications of identity. Her work teeters on the edge of total abstraction and demonstrates how much the artist or viewer needs to understand the subject of the photographs and sculptures. The piece “Standing on a Platform Waving” where perhaps the only indication of waving is the arching white which possibly hints at such a gesture.

Atterbury says she has been interested in art since she was a child drawing and molding clay. In high school she “became interested in looking at art, though making it suddenly felt difficult and confusing, so I stopped and focused on writing.” She then went onto study journalism in college, but found her true passion after taking a photography class in her third year.

Atterbury said that her inspiration comes from everywhere, including art, design, history, and film. Her search and exploration are constant, she said, whether she finds it on the Internet, in a book, or in person. For a long time she only took photographs, but in the past couple years she has “committed [herself] to sculpture and not just for the camera.”

The amount of time it takes to complete each sculpture varies with size. They can take a day to a month or more depending on the materials and complexity of the shapes. Atterbury says that “the big, painted reliefs, those take lots of time because there are many steps involved: laminating multiple sheets of plywood together, laying out the design, cutting and reassembling the shapes, gluing them together, installing hardware, patching imperfections, sanding, painting, touching up….”

Photographsin contrast are less predictable as to when they will be complete. Atterbury explains, “sometimes I can be in the studio shooting for days and not produce a single picture I’m happy with. Other times making a picture feels totally effortless and happens quickly.”

Be sure to take a walk around the exhibition currents7:Elizabeth Atterbury and soak in the abstract forms. . The exhibit will remain on display through May 10, 2015.

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