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Artist Aurora Robson transforms plastic into art at BMAC

Artist Aurora Robson new site-specific installation, "Human Nature Walk," will be on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) through February 11, 2024.
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Every minute, the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), approximately 7.7 billion of the 10 billion tons of plastic produced from 1950 to 2017 became plastic waste, ending up in landfills or dumped. And the situation has only worsened since then. Plastic pollution alters habitats and natural processes, reduces ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change, directly affects millions of people’s livelihoods, food production capabilities, and social well-being.

UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen has said, “We will not recycle our way out of the plastic pollution crisis. We need a systemic transformation to achieve the transition to a circular economy”—that is, an economic system based on the reuse of materials and the reduction of waste.

Artist Aurora Robson, whose new site-specific installation, “Human Nature Walk,” will be on view at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) from June 24, 2023, through February 11, 2024, is doing her part to bring about that circular economy and remove plastic debris from the waste stream. For over 20 years, Robson has been radically reframing the potential of plastic debris, creating otherworldly sculptures and installations—”transforming trash into beauty,” as BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld puts it—and supporting other artists in their efforts to do the same.

“My practice is a form of serious play driven by the widespread perception that plastic is disposable when it is precisely the opposite,” said Robson. “Although plastic debris is an environmentally destructive material, it has vast potential in art applications. I turn plastic into art, taking it out of the waste stream and turning its longevity into an asset.”

Robson’s BMAC installation—her first solo exhibition in New England—represents a compendium of the artist’s innovative approaches to repurposing plastic: bending, welding, sewing, injection-molding, and more. Curator Katherine Gass Stowe said, “‘Human Nature Walk’ reframes our relationship to plastic by inviting us to slow down and move mindfully through the meticulously organized colors, many varieties of shapes, and enveloping forms of Robson’s creations. Her dedication to solution-oriented applications for plastic debris magnificently demonstrates the power of human imagination for transformative change.”

Robson and BMAC invite the public to take part in that change by contributing their own plastic bottle caps to the installation.

“We are asking visitors to gather up their plastic caps, clean them according to instructions available on our website, and bring them to the museum,” said BMAC Gallery Manager Rhiannon Greywolf. “We will give them a final rinse, and we will make the cleaned caps available for visitors to add to specially designated sections of the installation—much like tossing pennies into a wishing well.”

Award for Service to Art & Humanity

On Saturday, August 19, BMAC will present Robson with its first-ever Award for Service to Art & Humanity, in recognition of the artist’s efforts to increase awareness and develop creative solutions to the pernicious problem of plastic pollution. The award presentation will take place during BMAC’s annual gala, an event that raises vital funds for BMAC’s contemporary art exhibitions, always-free admission, transformative education initiatives, and dynamic public events.

Other events and activities planned in connection with “Human Nature Walk” include an opening celebration (Saturday, June 24, at 5 p.m.), a river walk and found-object cyanotype workshop with artist Madge Evers (July 15), art-making activities at Brattleboro’s Riverfest (July 30) and Southern Vermont Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Festival (September 24), a source-to-sea river cleanup and found-object sculpture workshop with Retreat Farm, Connecticut River Conservancy, and River Gallery School (September 23 & 30), an artist talk (October 28), and more. Details are available at brattleboromuseum.org.

About Aurora Robson

Born in Toronto and raised in Maui, Hawaii, Robson lived, studied, and worked in New York City for two decades before she and her family moved to the Hudson Valley, where she currently lives and works. Robson’s sculptures have been exhibited and collected internationally, and she has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Robson founded and continues to lead Project Vortex, an international collective of artists, designers, and architects who educate about plastic pollution and reduce the flow of plastic debris through their creative work.

“Human Nature Walk” is generously supported by the Wolf Kahn Foundation, subLyme payments, and private donors.

About Brattleboro Museum & Art Center

Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. BMAC is open Wednesday–Sunday, 10–4. Admission is free. Located in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro, at the intersection of Main Street and Routes 119 and 142, the museum is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.

BMAC is supported in part by the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Brattleboro Savings & Loan, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters, and Whetstone Beer Co.

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