Shelby Baldridge MFA Visual Studies Thesis 2020)
Integrating Existence: from Anthozoans to Mycorrhizal Webs
My artistic practice investigates the relationship between the realm of humanity and the nonhuman world; especially the collision between synthetic manufactured objects and the natural world of biodiversity. For my thesis project, titled ‘Integrating Existence: from Anthozoans to Mycorrhizal Webs’, I am creating an immersive installation that features several large-scale sculptures that reference the forms of either coral (anthozoans) or fungi species. Although these sculptures mimic nonhuman organisms, they are constructed from synthetic post-consumer waste materials that conjure sharply contrasting associations. This contrast between form and materiality complicates the man/nature binary and questions our anthropocentric viewpoint. In addition, this immersive environment allows the viewer to interact with a central piece in the installation: a Sea Anemone Chair. This sculpturally altered chair will invite the viewer to sit down in the space and become engulfed in the fabric tentacles in their periphery. I hope this experience can provide a positive interaction between the viewer and this nonhuman entity and thus function as a metaphor for the possibility of mutualistic or beneficial interactions between people and the natural world. My thesis research provides an argument for ecological hope, and my goal for the installation is to incite curiosity and encourage contemplation of the materiality and forms in the space. Ultimately, I hope to portray interconnectivity between distant ecosystems, and shed light on the totality of existence on Earth.