Evan Voelbel
My current body of work started with an investigation of recurring patterns in nature, which are found on land and in the sea as well as macro and microscopic scales. While researching these patterns to find out more about where and how they are formed and why they are so prevalent in nature, I became intrigued by the work of Ernst Haeckel, specifically "Art Forms in Nature" and his writings on organic symmetries. Haeckels' unique combination of science and art is something I have always strived to attain in my own work. This lead me to take a scientific illustrative approach to my sculptural glass work, much in the same way the Blaschkas' did about a century ago, only in a more contemporary context.
Often using the format of the specimen jar, I attempt to create specimens that are both representative of actual organisms, yet are stylized to look somewhat surreal and fantastical. Glass is undoubtably the perfect medium to convey this quality, and especially through the process of encasement, I am able to make realistic interpretations of these organisms that look as if they are in a state of suspended animation, vibrant and colorful with a sense of life and movement rather than rigid, faded and lifeless as most scientific specimens are. I try to utilize all of the unique properties of glass to their full advantage, the optics and fluidity, and the ability to capture a moment in time. I sometimes accomplish this by making the specimens appear as if they are in a vessel containing liquid when, in reality, they are suspended in solid glass, forever frozen in a lifelike state. I also exploit the versatility of glass through the use of texture, ranging from flawlessly smooth to rough and jagged surfaces that cause the viewer to question whether or not the sculpture is made of glass.
Using nature as my inspiration gives me an unlimited wealth of exquisite forms, patterns and textures to draw from, the most intriguing of which always seem to belong to the the most complex yet delicate ecosystems. Unfortunately, a majority of the organisms I study are being threatened by a number of factors, most often human impact on their environment. Because of this I have been using my artwork not only to express my admiration of the complexity and beauty of nature but also as a vessel to help educate the public of the fragility of these ecosystems and the unprecedented state of decline they are in. My first body of work incorporating this message is the "Colony Collapse" series, which is about Colony Collapse Disorder, an epidemic effecting bee colonies worldwide due to our indiscriminate use of certain pesticides. The series uses sand cast glass sheets textured with honeycomb that are draped over found pieces of wood to capture a literal collapsing gesture and symbolically represent the impending effect on our environment if bees become extinct. The pieces have a beautiful but ominous presence, which I hope to retain in my current and future series by juxtaposing vibrant colors with the ghostly qualities of clear glass and depicting lively, organic forms in the sterile context of scientific specimens to emphasize their vulnerability and inevitable disappearance if we don't make an effort to preserve their natural habitat.