Have you met Tara Donovan? She's an accomplished sculptor who has a piece in the Wonder show at the Renwick Gallery, which I mentioned last week. She uses everyday objects to create works of abstract art, many of them installation-sized. The NYT has a good article from 2008 about her method.
This piece, made of buttons and glue, is one of a series called Bluffs. A detail is shown at right.
She's been doing a bunch of work lately using Slinky toys. Some pieces are three-dimensional, others are flattened reliefs on a wall, and still others are huge prints.
Here, she uses pencil segments to create a geological map or a miniature metropolis.
And here's a billowing cloudscape of plastic cups. Like most of her work, each installation has to be remade from scratch, each time it's exhibited.
Here's what's inspiring about Tara: She focuses on a single material and experiments with it over a long period of time, until she finds out exactly what it can do, and how she can make it into something that interests her.
Challenge your child, or yourself, to make a work of art with just one or two materials — a box of toothpicks, say, or a bag of craft sticks, or a few dozen plastic sandwich bags. I can tell you from experience, the activity will either lead to imaginative, mind-expanding discoveries, or it will turn out to be merely a Zen-like lesson in patience. Either way, it will have value.
I'm Debbie Way, an artist and writer who enjoys making things.