A Creation Story on Palm Avenue

Arts & Culture

Pictured: The 17 Spheres, the collection will be on display next week at Art Ovation Hotel. Photo courtesy of Traci Kegerreis.

Traci Kegerreis didn’t set out to sculpt the entire world, but, when you’re an artist, these things tend to happen. And what began last year as a single abstract piece commemorating the four basic ‘spheres’ of the Earth—atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), lithosphere (rock) and biosphere (life)—has now evolved into a full-fledged 17-part series of sculptural works exploring the varied and increasingly esoteric subsystems that comprise our physical world. Entitled Earth: The 17 Spheres, the collection will be on display next week at Art Ovation Hotel, where the artist will be in residence May 23-28, with an artist’s reception May 26 at 6pm.

Working with found objects, Kegerreis’ process begins where another’s has ended. “When we came to Sarasota, we realized how much stuff people just throw away,” she says. Married to a finish carpenter, it didn’t take long for the pair to start revamping furniture on the side. And as a result, Kegerreis soon found herself surrounded by all the leftover pieces and parts of past projects. And these became her medium, the artist-as-Frankenstein stapling life together from abandoned scraps with creative electricity.

For her first full show, Earth: The 17 Spheres, Kegerreis casts a wider, more eccentric net in her found objects, creating her assemblages from mosaic tile and glass, vintage tabletops and trays, bent and painted kitchen utensils, magazines, original photography, twigs, bugs, ceramic doll parts and even odd bits of metal found on the ground. (“My studio is a disaster,” she says.) Kegerreis explores artistic representation of the magnetosphere, protecting the planet’s life from solar radiation, and the asthenosphere, the plasticky substance that the Earth’s crust floats on, enabling continental drift and plate tectonics. “And it’s weird how different each piece started to become,” she says. “But with assembly, you can do anything you want.” And so Kegerreis creates the cryosphere as a series of watercolors under glass and the troposphere as an installation in an antique cabinet, because when the medium is whatever you want it to be, the rules tend to behave in much the same way.

Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to watch the artist at work, as Kegerreis will be creating new assemblages live in the artist’s nook at Art Ovation, every day from 4pm to 8pm, using discarded fencing and old cabinet doors as her canvas. Those feeling bold can even join in the fun, as Kegerreis invites all to not only try their hand at helping her create a new piece, but even to bring their own found objects to contribute. “As long as they’re not too big,” she says. And at the end of the week, the artist will take the collaborative piece back to her studio for touch-ups and refinement, before raffling it off. But even if they don’t take home a new piece of art, Kegerreis hopes visitors leave the exhibition with a new appreciation not just for this weird little planet, but the curiosity to explore a little more.

“I’ve never been really science-y,” says Kegerreis, “but I learned how much there is to learn, even at 53. “And if you can learn and do art at the same time, that’s everything.”

Earth: 17 Spheres will be on display at Art Ovation Hotel from May 23 to May 28, with an artist reception May 26 at 6pm.

Pictured: The 17 Spheres, the collection will be on display next week at Art Ovation Hotel. Photo courtesy of Traci Kegerreis.

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