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Hand {Made} Ready
An Exhibition of New Works by Clare Arentzen

The Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Visual Arts at Princeton University will present “Hand {Made} Ready”, an exhibition by senior Clare Arentzen of collected, found objects, both natural and man-made, manipulated by nature and the artist, along with handmade objects by the artist that emphasize the creative process. The work will be on exhibit March 24 through 28 with a reception on March 27 from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau Street. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public.

Arentzen at work on a carving that replicates a large found tree limb. Photo courtesy Clare Arentzen 

Arentzen is a biology major, avid hiker and nature-lover who grew up in the Midwest (Springfield, Illinois). All of these interests inspire her work. The found “ready-made” objects in her show include rusted metals bent beyond use, old iron pipes, railroad ties, glass and discarded hardware usually found on her hikes and walks through wooded areas and along roadsides. “I don’t think of giving these objects new life,” notes Arentzen, “But more about reminding people that the objects served a purpose at some point. There is nostalgia behind it, and a touch of death, or preservation and cataloguing, tying in my interests in biology and natural history.” Her aesthetic in this body of work is in the collecting, curating, cataloguing and sometimes assemblage of the objects.

A second body of work in the exhibition represents found objects from nature, such as branches, tree trunks, discarded bird nests, rocks, bones and plant matter. Her assembly of objects in this realm comes from a lifelong love of nature and natural processes. “Though it is important for me to manipulate the things I collect in some way,” she explains, “The intervention is done not to erase the hand of nature, but to highlight it.” As an example, she laboriously shaved and smoothed the neck of a tree stump to create a contrast to the unmanipulated roots growing from the other end.

The third area of inquiry in her exhibition is on her work process and labor. She views the process and work of collecting – walking for miles, carrying awkward and bulky objects through the woods – and the workmanship behind her art as essential parts of her artistic viewpoint and the influences of both her Midwestern upbringing and a grandfather who excelled in woodworking. “In this case, the act of making as well as the final result is the art,” she notes. “It is an interesting contrast to the objects in which I have no hand in making, but these concepts are connected in the process, the repetition of action, and the therapy that makes art freeing for me.”

Her work for her creative senior thesis project in visual arts relates to her senior thesis in biology, which is on how hikers spread invasive seeds. Both examine the interaction of humans with the natural world. Her immediate plans after graduation include a three-month stint this summer on the Appalachian Trail as a ridge runner, individuals who hike and camp the trail to guide and assist recreational visitors.

The Lucas Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.


Link to photos:
Photo caption 1:  Collected materials in Clare Arentzen’s studio.
Photo caption 2:  Arentzen at work on a carving that replicates a large found tree limb.
Photo credit:  Photos by Clare Arentzen

Event Information

Opening reception:
Thursday, March 27
7:00 p.m.

Exhibit runs:
March 24- 28, 2014

10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Lucas Gallery
Lewis Center for the Arts
at 185 Nassau Street
Princeton University

Free and open to the public




A corner of the artist's studio. Photo by Clare Arentzen

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