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Nature-Inspired Exhibit "Blooms" At Fort Wayne Museum Of Art

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Courtesy/Crystal Wagner
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An example of Wagner's artwork

Crystal Wagner’s new series Bloom opens Friday at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. It will be on display until October 23, and once it’s taken down, it’s gone forever.

Each of Crystal Wagner’s art installations in her Paroxysm series is unique. Her exhibit in Fort Wayne is completely different from sculptures she’s created in Singapore and Times Square.

“Nobody will ever see this piece anywhere in the world. It will only exist this way, here, at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.”

Wagner is from Pennsylvania, and she’s had exhibitions all over the world, including galleries in Italy, Germany and Australia.

"When you stand in front of something that's bigger than you and it makes you look around, that reminds us of what we are innately as humans."

Wagner takes each location into consideration when “growing” the piece, which is what she calls her process of building the sculpture. For this series, Wagner uses the museum’s 40-foot ceiling to create a tall, colorful installation that also takes advantage of natural lighting in the room.

She says her art is engaging in a rare way, since so much of the art people see is two dimensional or through a computer screen. In a world where everything is documented through social media, she thinks her temporary art is a refreshing change. So, she’s not disappointed when her exhibits are deconstructed in the end.

“I think that there’s something beautiful about the essence of temporary in the sense that we’re so used to things kind of like being always accessible,” Wagner said. “There’s a life cycle to everything, and it’s necessary and it’s important and it’s natural.”

The only thing that remains the same is the material. Each installation is made with recycled, plastic party tablecloth.

“By taking these everyday materials and recontextualizing them, I have the ability to create these exotic forms and structures that are inspired by nature but with these manufactured, mass-produced things,” Wagner said.

She’s been using the same material for about three years, and it still looks mostly new. Wagner says this illustrates how people dispose of an item before it’s done being used.

“For me, there’s a sense of kind of like pushing that synthetic,” she said. “How long can these materials actually last, and how many incarnations can they become or turn into?”

She did buy all the plastic tablecloths new from the store, but she says she won’t buy anymore.

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Credit Courtesy/Crystal Wagner
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An example of Crystal Wagner's artwork

Wagner’s art is incredibly visual. She creates a wire skeleton of the installation, which she calls the “bones.” Then, she folds the colorful plastic around the bones to create three-dimensional designs.

Wagner works 11-15 hour days for 11 days straight to grow her installation. She has some help, but she is the one making creative decisions on where to take the piece. She says it’s a test of endurance.

“The physical labor is definitely something that’s challenging, but I find that the most complicated is managing the mental fatigue that comes at 10 hours, 12 hours, because at that point I just can’t make decisions anymore about what the design work is.”

Another challenge Wagner faces is having to comply with building code. She says she has to make sure exit signs are visible, fire sprinklers aren’t covered, and walkways are wide enough.

“It’s about coming into my space and adhering to the conditional environment that exists here, and it is a big challenge,” she said. “It’s an equation.”

Wagner says she enjoys being outdoors, and uses art from nature in her work, especially in the size and scale of her installations.

“When you stand in front of something that’s bigger than you and it makes you look around, that reminds us of what we are innately as humans, and I think that’s important,” Wagner said.

"It's not just the flat image, which I think is fleeting, fickle and... too quick. It's like sugar."

She says that feeling rarely ever happens because people look at their cell phones for a large portion of their day.

Walking through the installation, she explains that the negative space surrounding her piece is important to her when thinking about the experience viewers will have.

“We are objects, so as we walk through space, we build a three-dimensional model of what that is in our memory, but it’s a passage through things and past things that establishes a real experience. It’s not just the flat image, which I think is fleeting, fickle and... it’s too quick. It’s like sugar,” she said.

Wagner wants savory experiences. She says she wants her art to resonate with people.

And when so many of our daily experiences are virtual, she hopes people have a real experience at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

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