Phoebe Washburn’s Living Environments

You wouldn’t be faulted for thinking there is some environmental commentary in Phoebe Washburn’s work. The Brooklyn artist builds large scale landscape installations using repurposed detritus she collects from the street, from cardboard boxes and old newspapers to construction materials and discarded plastic. But it’s her hoarding instinct, not eco principles, that drives the work.

“I’m not green; I’m greedy,” she has said. “There’s definitely an aspect of hoarding that drives this,. If I see someone walking down the street with a nice piece of wood, I’m like, Where did they get that?”

For one piece she used cast-off wood to construct a tunnel through which visitors could walk and discover aquariums, plants, and a fish pond, while for an installation at the Deutsche Guggenheim she constructed a sod factory in a gallery space. By using such mundane, discarded materials to make her organic  installations, Washburn can’t help but bring to attention to issues of waste and consumption.

Of late, Washburn has turned to smaller, less site-specific work, using the materials from her larger installations to create mixed-media pieces like Skills Learned From My Hippie Orthodontist (2011), a collection of rocks mounted on a folding chair.

Photos: Zach Feuer Gallery

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