What happens when you combine a truck load of cast-offs from an artist and her family of five, a spectacular gallery space, and a multitude of long gestating ideas? "climbing trees, making forts, a family debris installation by lisa barthelson" at the Sprinkler Factory Gallery.
Artist Lisa Barthelson works in multiple mediums from her studio in the Sprinkler Factory at 38 Harlow St. in Worcester MA and has shown her mixed media work throughout New England. "climbing trees, making forts" is a site-specific installation. The solo exhibition is the realization of the artist’s long-held dream to seize the entire spectacular Sprinkler Factory Gallery space, and create a glimpse into the world that shaped her childhood and her adult life as mother, wife and artist, through recycling and re-imagining the overload of goods that defined her own children’s youth. The installation is a continuation of the artist's ongoing "family debris series," now writ large, an artist at play with many materials, and metaphors: a family and studio debris extravaganza.
As a child in suburban New Jersey, Barthelson’s world revolved around climbing trees and making forts. Looking back, she recognizes that in essence she’s continued these activities throughout her life. The allure of tree climbing in her youth included the joy of being outside in nature, often alone, looking out at the world from above, hidden, but with an expansive view and perspective. Using anything available as a potential building material, Barthelson created nests, outside or indoors: constructing protected and protective spaces, carved out of the family chaos that surrounded her: choosing to invite others in to play, or to be alone indulging in a rich fantasy world, away from it all, invisible while in the midst of others.
As an artist, paralleling her childhood pursuits, Barthelson still relies on time and space to be alone to focus, work, and regenerate. Moving through the natural world during daily time spent outside, and indoor time holing up in the studio, replaces the past’s tree-top sanctuary and fortress. As she relished using anything at hand to build as a child, Barthelson loves the challenge of repurposing her family’s used and already owned debris as artmaking materials. A departure from the spare consumption of Barthelson’s childhood, now her family’s diverse postconsumer waste has created a need to re-use: indulging in a bit of pleasurable penance. At the Sprinkler Factory Gallery, Barthelson lets her imagination run free, paying homage to her youthful havens, playing with and transforming the bounty of stuff that as a child her family did not have, or need.