By Ed Grant
“Big Things Have Small Beginnings”
So many of the things around us are small, or at least start off small. Stalactites form one drop at a time. Viruses and bacteria evolve new ways around our defenses to become full-blown pandemics. Slime mold is used to map the most efficient ways between points and is studied to model modern transportation systems. A radical idea takes root and old orders are displaced. From Chaos Theory to fluid dynamics to explosive percolation, the minute differences that can lead to great changes are at the forefront of science and mathematics. It is also very present in the arts.
Chris Burden’s Samson (1985) implies the eventual structural collapse of a building once enough visitors pass through the sculpture’s turnstile (each input ever so slightly expands a jack). Mike and Doug Starns’ Big Bambu—an installation built in 2010 on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 5,000 slender bamboo poles—goes from order to a delightful riot.
Even on a more intimate scale, one without teams of helpers or the need to rely on deep financial resources, such work can resonate at the same level.
In “Big Things Have Small Beginnings,” I would like to tap this intimate potential. Jaynie Crimmins shreds and rolls junk mail. Anthony May “pixellates” and reconstructs a tree. Cynthia Ruse makes fish out of Sculpey in an open-ended march toward 10 million. Heather Goodman creates a swarm from a stamp. Natalie Abrams evokes coral out of shaved encaustic. Megan Suttles’ cascade of chopsticks and Nancy Baker’s delicately cut paper relief sculpures are ephemeral monuments.
There is more than a touch of obsession to these works. Or, more accurately, it is more like meditation. Using simple, often repeatable elements, these artists have created pieces that reach for more than their modest beginnings. While utterly unassuming, they all speak to what it is like to be one of many.
Ed Grant is a painter and photographer who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Top: Anthony Heinz May, Untitled (tree), 2015, approximately 96 by 24 by 24 inches