Images: Beth Dary’s studio

Beth Dary’s studio is a bit like an inventor’s workshop with sketches covering the walls and test objects on every tabletop.

Contributed by Sharon Butler / Brooklyn artist Beth Dary thinks about the individual bubbles in which we all live. She was settled in a new house in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, and her home, which she had been thinking of turning into a residency program, experienced major flooding and mold damage. She and her family evacuated to New York City, where she was invited to participate in an LMCC Workspace  program for artists displaced by Katrina. She told me she

began to think about how we all live in bubbles—both individually and as communities. These glass pieces were originally part of a water-based public art project down in Battery Park City where they appeared to float, but cable tethers limited their movement and prevented them from crashing into one another. Everything had to be inert, but viewers couldn’t be sure if the objects were real, if they were metastasizing, or if they were organic and had grown there. Did they land? Did they float?

Dary contemplated the possibilities and began to think about migration:  movement, resilience, and how some of us travel freely and others have limited mobility. A very thoughtful and highly skilled artist who enjoys collaboration, Dary was trained as a papermaker but learns new materials and processes as ideas take her in new directions. 

Dary grew up on the shoreline of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, and her objects often reveal a lifelong interest in sea life. She enlisted a group of friends to create a series of tiny handbuilt porcelain sculptures that recall resilient barnacles. Hundreds were installed in a room-sized installation for Prospect 1.5 in New Orleans.
In later projects, Dary began adding metal shavings to the porcelain to create a rich brown color that makes the pieces look like organic growths.
Dary likes collaborating, and she works with artisans at Urban Glass in downtown Brooklyn to make big blown-glass balls. Here she is masking selected areas with blue tape so that when she sandblasts them, only the exposed surfaces will have a frosted appearance.
Wire bent into cage-like forms covers sections of the glass. Much of Dary’s work has an organic quality, as if the sculptures are plants or animals, but these pod-like forms are made from cast paper pulp. She likes to generate a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity, and her use of materials reinforces that goal.
Here is a close up of the handmade wire structures that enclose the glass forms.
In the back, a pile of glass balls that Dary plans to use for a projection project, and in the foreground an arrangement of small porcelain sculptures.
Dary’s latest project is a series of improvisational photograms. Blown-glass balls are arranged on photo paper and exposed to light. The process flattens the bulbous forms into shapes that look like enlarged views of microscopic organisms. She has been fooling around projecting the images on the wall and on the glass balls, but still isn’t sure where the idea might take her.

Artist Bio: Beth Dary holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and a Masters of Fine Arts from Memphis College of Art. She has participated in several artist residency programs including Yaddo, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Most recently, Dary’s work has been curated into exhibits at Prospect.1.5 in New Orleans, the Islip Art Museum and Art in Odd Places in New York. Dary’s work has been commissioned by Battery Park City in Manhattan and she has received grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the The Manhattan Community Arts Fund. Her work is in several private and corporate collections including the Edelman Corporation and the New Orleans Museum of Art.

Beth Dary’s work is currently on view in “Among Friends/ Enter Amigos,” a project she co-organized with Patricia Fabricant and Alexandra Rutsch Brock.  Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, 107 Suffolk St, New York, New York. Through May 12, 2019. She recently had work at Project: Artspace in “Particulate Matter,” curated by Nancy Baker and Etty Yaniv, featuring artists Jaynie Gillman Crimmins, Beth Dary, Liz Jaff, Antonia Perez, Suzan Shutan, Nancy Baker and Etty Yaniv.

Dary is in the Two Trees Cultural Space Subsidy Program and recently  participated in DUMBO Open Studios.

Related posts:
Studio visit: Lisa McCleary
Immediate, physical, emotional: Studio visit with Elise Siegel
Studio visit with Barbara Takenaga
Studio Visit: James Rauchman

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