Kristina Arnold makes art out of plastic, a material that embodies the artificiality of modern American culture. This summer she's installing one of her mixed-media physiological funhouse pieces in a setting that represents the opposite of throwaway societya marble-floored gallery housed in the basement of a centuries-old castle in Bratislava, Slovakia. The commission has been two years in the making, starting when Slovakian curator Viktor Hulik contacted one of Arnold's former teachers, Clark Stewart of UT Knoxville, in search of interesting American artists. Out of Stewart's suggestions, Hulik decided to work with Arnold. Now, after several years of grant-writing and planning, the Nashville-based artist is headed overseas in June to install the work, which will be on exhibit June 29 to Aug. 28. While the work will address her standing themes of medicine, American "pill culture," the body and natural form, displaying it in this Bratislava gallery will set up a contrast between the shiny Americanness of her sculpture and the Old Europe patina of the surroundings.
This has been an eventful year for Arnold. From August to November of last year, she was in a residency for emerging artists at the Pilchuck Glass School in Washington state, one of the leading centers for training in art glass techniques. Rather than working with blown glass, Arnold focused on casting, in which molten glass is poured into molds. The typical results from this process are more opaque and have a rougher, less predictable surface. Since then, she's started to integrate glass into her mixed-media works, and says that it "alters things both visually and conceptually." The colors are richer, the surfaces are "crustier and more organic. It has a more seductive beauty." Where plastic is an invention that connotes cheap modernity, glass has a long history, and Arnold finds herself "respecting the material more." It's easy to imagine that it will add new levels of resonance and intrinsic visual appeal to her work.
For now, Arnold sees glass as another element in her palette, but a lot of her current project ideas involve it. She is not sure yet if this is "a crush" or the start of a more fundamental shift in technique and concept. Two of her pieces incorporating glass elements will be in the Frist's "Fragile Species" exhibit of local artists, opening on June 16.
But wait, there's more. This fall, Arnold starts a job at Western Kentucky University with responsibilities that include directing the art department gallery. She has found an exciting young faculty there, and she expects to help build ties between Bowling Green and the Nashville art community. Nashville is located within about an hour's drive of several other centers of art activity like Smithville, Sewanee, Murfreesboro and Clarksville, as well as Bowling Green, but people here don't take much advantage of what these nearby towns have to offer. One can expect that as gallery director, Arnold will stage exhibits worth making the drive up I-65.
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That clip is horrifying. It looks like postmortem makeup. Very uncanny valley.
AGGGHHHH that last picture!