Natural Selection

Natural Selection


Natural Selection (detail)

Hilary Pfeifer
Portland, Oregon
September 4-
November 1, 2008

Hilary Pfeifer typically works macro and micro, large and small. Though the Portland artist has a B.F.A. in metals, her preferred form over the last few years has been an installation composed of numerous small one-of-a-kind wood and mixed media sculptures that she paints with bright, cartoonish colors. She believes that site-specific works allow "the same atmosphere of spontaneity" that her working methods in the studio provide. For visual inspiration, she looks to "nature, toys, body parts, food, germs or sex toys to evoke multiple sensations and references." And she claims to use more than 50 percent altered found materials, "which both satisfies my desire to consume less and often leads me to create new forms."

Natural Selection, Pfeifer's installation at the Ogle gallery, has an exterior structure resembling a greenhouse one might find at a botanical garden. Within it she has arranged hundreds of plant-like objects that she likens to Japanese bonsai, but bonsai that "suggest scenarios where plants can choose their mates the way humans can-a blend of natural instincts and intellect." Among her sources of inspiration, alluded to in the title, are "Darwin's writings pertaining specifically to plants, modern challenges to evolution theory, personal experience and art history." This miniaturized, teeming environment continues Pfeifer's "exploration of the ways that humans attempt to control nature, and in turn, nature finds a way to adapt or reassert itself, such as grass that grows in the cracks of a sidewalk or mildew that forms on an uninsulated wall behind a couch."