Animal, Vegetable, Mineral is a two person collaborative exhibition two years in the making. Artists Lindsay Smith Gustave and Marsha Mack hybridize their disparate practices to ruminate on questions of nature versus human nature, each uniquely analyzing the formation and function of our domestic surroundings. Natural elements—animal, vegetable, and mineral—are thematic foundations of this exhibition, utilized to portray the interaction with and memories of our domestic environment when they are no longer ‘of nature.’ Works by Gustave and Mack depict these elements as signifiers of extravagance, perceived value, and false comfort in a changing world. Spanning seasonal and massive global change, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral has taken on new meaning in this year of pandemic and quarantine as exercises in isolation and criticism of creature comforts.
What began as a call and response slowly evolved into a cross pollination of ideas and forms, resulting in works that complement each other from opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum. Lindsay Smith Gustave’s practice, underscored by patience, stillness, and beauty, which began as methodical drawings, currently utilizes ethereal materials such as neutral toned chiffon fabrics, drawn taut and embroidered. Vintage glass seed beads are hand sewn into these sheer fabrics adding a dimensional element with the play of shadow. Imagery of hands, household goods, and discarded fruit peels speak to intimacy, the body, and domesticity. Drawings, beaded works, and video portray an ongoing relationship to domestic objects, a relationship heightened against the backdrop of pandemic.
Departing from Gustave’s subtler gestures, Marsha Mack’s sculptures and installations revel in material tension. Embracing mass-produced consumer products ranging from aseasonal grocery store florals to fine cut gemstones, overcompensation acts as intervention to socially conditioned shopping environs and the compulsory convenience of the retail landscape. The concept of value is called into question, comparing the simulated against the natural in the markets of domesticated animals, selectively bred flora, and choice earth minerals, highlighting the illusory nature of preciousness. Like the sparkle of a wink caught across the room, playfully disarming works flirt with the promise of collapse that is inextricably tethered to excess. Presented as pastel vignettes seated within expansive backdrops, Mack punctuates Gustave with intentionally maximalist, yet harmonious, opposition.
In an endless cycle of precious bloom and eventual decay, Gustave and Mack take turns adding nuance to an amorphous conversation regarding individual agency in the conscious and subconscious curation of the world around us, especially in a time when we have no choice but to live among our “things.” Whether it’s defining one’s identity with a handmade artisan planter, or masking vulnerability in the glare of lab grown diamonds, a curious conclusion is reached by the commingling of vastly differing artistic visions. These subject-objects are stricken from context, pared down to the essential, to draw attention to the voids between ourselves and those objects. Consumerist traditions of still life and portraiture are injected with a dose of alienation while examining connections with these objects, or
lack thereof. Through periods of feast and famine, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral trains its focus on the physicality of objecthood in the contemporary experience in its most beautiful and decadent moments.
Lindsay Smith Gustave Bio
Lindsay Smith Gustave lives and works in Denver, CO. Gustave received a BFA with Honors in printmaking in 2007, and a Master’s in Art History in 2014, both from the University of Denver. A multidisciplinary artist, she seeks to express the remnants of mundane existence through domestic and
natural artifact, thus establishing a link between a landscape’s reality and that imagined by its observer. Reproductions of specific moments or vague memories infuse them with meaning by challenging the division between memory and immediate experience. Gustave has worked at the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, and David B. Smith Gallery, and was a board member of Denver Art Museum’s CultureHaus. She has exhibited work at Alto Gallery, Georgia Art Space, and Union Hall. Gustave has
been featured as a Colorado Creative in Denver’s Westword.
Marsha Mack Bio
Marsha Mack (San Rafael, CA) holds an MFA in Ceramics and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Women’s and Gender Studies from Syracuse University, and a BFA in Ceramics from San Francisco State University. Mack’s texturally rich, process-intensive sculptures and installations honor playfulness and introspection as equals. Her ongoing interest in cultural consumption and the formation of identity serves as wellspring for visual and associative cues, giving rise to questions of personal vs universal symbol, mixed race identity, and the emotional potential of confection.
Mack has presented projects and exhibitions with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (Denver, CO), Black Cube Nomadic Museum (Englewood, CO), Lane Meyer Projects (Denver, CO), PØST (Los Angeles, CA), The Yard (Colorado Springs, CO), and the Galleries of Contemporary Art (Colorado Springs, CO). Marsha is currently the Associate Director of David B. Smith Gallery (Denver, CO), a ceramic instructor at Foothills Park and Recreation District (Littleton, CO), and is an artist in residence at RedLine Contemporary Art Center (Denver, CO).
Photo credit: Amanda Tipton Photography