Achromatic Asters – Fynbos Series

Submitted by Michelle Stitzlein

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Client: Anonymous

Location: Madison, WI, United States

Completion date: 2021

Project Team

Artist

Michelle Stitzlein

Structural Consultant & Lead Installer

Nathaniel Stitzlein

Overview

Achromatic Asters was created for a life science company. Large and dramatic, the wall sculpture greets employees and guests as they enter the foyer of a newly constructed building and measures 8’0”H x 21’2”W x 20”D. Inspired by botanical imagery and shapes found under a microscope, the piece is comprised entirely of repurposed and reused materials (listed below) and it begins a conversation about issues threatening the environment. The sculpture was influenced by mid-western native plants such as pokeberry, doll’s eye, pepper plant, culver’s root, etc. These plants, with their ladder-like branches and twigs, are accentuated with repeating circles of round leaves and berries that mimic and visually suggest the DNA strand, clusters of cells and cilia-like structures. The concept of genes, identity and the age-old “family tree” graphic also comes to mind. Interpretations of the work are encouraged and expected to be wide and varied.

Goals

The client was interested in the final commissioned piece to not only mesh with and enhance the interior design of the space but to also generate wonder, spark ideas, and connect art/nature/science concepts with an added touch of whimsy. It was imperative that this piece speak to the employees and visitors and to further represent the companies interest in the protection of the environment, exploration of knowledge and commitment to science.

Process

The client was excited to have the artist incorporate several outdated and used objects from their own science labs into the design of the piece. Therefore, multiple items such as graduated cylinders and centrifuge bottles were requested and shipped to the artist as she was in the layout stage. Over 60 items were provided by the client and utilized in the final piece. Viewers can locate and identify those specific units within the sculpture and the resulting process becomes an interactive experience. This unique approach to a commission further ties and personalizes the sculpture to "the place" and the client.
Five separate artists created five separate pieces for placement in common areas of building that are visible to one another. The artists communicated with each other during the brainstorming and preliminary design stage in order to share a common subject matter/theme while maintaining a very individual and distinctive approach to each piece.
The artist shared progress images and received approval to move forward from the client, architect, and interior designer throughout all stages of the creation of the piece until it was successfully installed on site.

Additional Information

Repurposed and reused materials: Coaxial cable, fire hose, piano keys and parts, golf club handles, graduated cylinders, centrifuge bottles, slide carousels, bicycle gears and tire rim, plastic toy wheels, light fixture shades, fishing net buoys, paper plate holders, pie and pizza plates, pots, pans, trivets, tins, steamers, jello molds, colanders, platters, lids, salad bowls, stove burner pans and grill, film reels, fan casings, fan blades, car tire hubcaps, cd’s, cd changer, records, stereo speakers, saw blades, plumbing parts, brackets, bottle caps, protective bolt caps, cardboard roll end caps, gas cap, vent cap, popcorn popper base, hot water handle, phone rotary, and a few other miscellaneous items.