New York based installation artist Tara Donovan has a keen eye for generative aesthetics, and using man-made objects to tell an alternate narrative, of growth, of rebirth, and of natural power. Reminiscent of the natural power of some fungi, cancers, ocean waves, and nature’s force, her installations are swarming, massive, and surprising, to say the least. Donovan has utilized materials such as Scotch tape, Styrofoam cups, index cards, paper plates, toothpicks, drinking straws, pins, pencils, and other everyday objects to create her biomorphic installations and sculptures. She creates her sprawling innovative works of art not to simulate nature, but instead, to mimic the way that nature expands and grows. Her unique innovation in the realm of fine art installation and sculpture is impressive and exciting in a world where so many artists replicate, emulate and imitate, Donovan stands tall as an innovator in her field.


Donovan’s work inspires a dreamlike state, undulating like clouds in a storm, pushing and pulling the possibilities of our own reality. Time-consuming and labor-intensive, each installation is unique to the space, and must be newly built each time it is shown, as most of her pieces tour multiple venues. She takes objects most people barely even look at, and uses them to create an entire being or environment, changing the form of the material only as it multiplies in great numbers.


She began showing in the mid-90s, and had her first solo exhibition in 1998 at Hemphill Fine Arts in Washington D.C. Born in Queens, she has remained close to her N.Y. home most of her life, although her art career has taken her all over the world. She received the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008.Her extreme use of single materials in large quantities helps her work feel organic and biological, but also references traditional minimalism, and art historical figures such as Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse.

As in classic minimalism, Donovan uses systems and finite shapes and objects to create seemingly infinite monuments and installations. However, in this day and age, her work speaks to another varying degree of minimalism, by suggesting digital, cellular, and other emergent networks—speaking to the systems that are involved in our modern lifestyles every day. Donovan is inspired by the mundane objects themselves and sees their potential for another form or life, and then finds her own way to guide them to her vision, transcending their physical reality, and changing the viewer’s perspective.


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