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Using recycled materials, Jarod Charzewski’s site-specific installation targets consumerism

Jarod Charzewski is the South Carolina Arts Commission's 2016 Visual Arts Fellow. Applications for the next round of Fellowships are due November 1.

From The Free Times

Article by August Krickel

Soil is on view Oct. 27 - Dec. 8 at USC's McMaster Gallery, 1615 Senate St., Columbia. Opening reception: Oct. 27 from 5 - 7 p.m.

Image above: Jarod Charzewski’s Scarp

Artist Jarod Charzewski sits on a pile of lumber in the University of South Carolina’s McMaster Gallery. Next to him is a larger mound of salvaged inner tubes and bicycle tires. Over the next six days, Charzewski, an associate professor of sculpture at the College of Charleston, will use these materials to create a site-specific installation for his solo exhibition Soil.

He hopes to make a statement on contemporary consumer culture and on what he describes as the abundant “quantity of wasted materials, and the unsustainability of consumer practice.”

“Something really struck me when I was very young,” Charzewski recalls, “when I found out that my elementary school was built on a landfill site, and that immediately grabbed a hold of my imagination. I thought of being able to cut open the earth and look at layers of trash. Throughout my career, I’ve built these different kinds of landscapes out of different things. It’s about being able to round up large quantities of materials, and it’s astonishingly easy to accumulate these things, and that becomes part of the piece.”

He’s done similar work before, but never with inner tubes. His installation Scarp opened at the College of Charleston in 2008, consisting of some 5,000 articles of clothing, borrowed from — and later returned to — Goodwill. A wooden and cardboard framework fixed the garments in multicolored layers, suggesting geological formations, much as he plans for Soil.

In an artist’s statement for the Columbia installation Charzewski says “the materials will be organized and positioned neatly in the gallery to create the appearance of sedimentary layers of earth. This aesthetic will reference the transitional Columbia, South Carolina, landscape, as it is located on the cusp of the Lowcountry and the Appalachian Mountains. All materials will be recycled after the exhibition closes.”

Charzewski describes how he will build a detailed and calculated framework with the lumber, stretching the tires and tubes on top of it.

He anticipates “a lot of experimentation and figuring it out — that’s something I teach my students all the time. You can’t Google how to do this. You have to think quickly and be resourceful. ... I get into the site, and feel it out, and see what I need to do.”

Named by the South Carolina Arts Commission as 2016’s Visual Arts Fellow, Charzewski has several permanent installations in restaurants and corporate lobbies in Charleston and is working on a permanent outdoor piece for the Blythewood branch of the Richland Library.

McMaster Gallery Director Shannon Lindsey says that the themes in Charzewski’s work appealed to the gallery’s selection committee, which reviewed some 150 submissions after a call for artists for the current season.

“We were looking for interdisciplinary artists who may not define themselves through one particular craft or medium, or that could really appeal to all the facets that we offer here in the School of Visual Art and Design,” she says.

Charzewski’s proposed project presented unique challenges. Unlike a painter, he couldn’t simply unload finished work and hang it. Instead, he must physically be in the space before beginning work. Art students will help with the construction, and the artist will give lectures to classes in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

For Charzewski, the environment has always been an influence. Raised in Manitoba, Canada, the artist says that “it’s hard to grow up in the prairies without thinking about wide, open spaces, and that sense of the infinite. Any place you grow up informs who you are, your psychology, and your makeup, and that has always translated into my work.”

Visual Arts Fellow Jarod Charzewski uses everyday objects to explore our need to collect

Charleston artist Jarod Charzewski was recently named the South Carolina Arts Commission Visual Arts Fellow. Read more about all four Fellows. From Charleston City Paper Article by Elizabeth Pandolfi, photo by Jonthan Boncek

Visual artist Jarod Charzewski's studio is a scene of organized chaos. In one corner, there are four bulbous Little Tykes toy boxes shaped like a football, a Humpty Dumpty boy and a Humpty Dumpty girl, and a somewhat menacing pig. In another, there are all kinds of tools, from power drills to pliers, and random pieces of the detritus of human life: funnels, tubes, bicycle tires. A complete, mostly real, dolphin skeleton is mounted in the center — it will be part of an installation on water and oceans at Winthrop University this fall. Then there's the huge, four-foot tall container of cables: HDMI cables, phone charger cables, coaxial cables, even old Nintendo cables. Gathered from friends, students, and acquaintances, they'll be transformed into a sculptural installation for a show in Fredericksburg, Va., although it's not quite clear yet what form that will take. "It'll all be done on site — I'll just do a mock-up of the technique I want to use there," Charzewski says. "I can never really do a rehearsal installation, often because I don't have the space or the time to really focus." This is the kind of work Charzewski, a College of Charleston professor and winner of the 2015 S.C. Arts Commission Visual Arts Fellowship, loves to delve into. Although he's technically a sculptor — the Canadian-born artist holds an MFA in sculpture from the University of Minnesota, and he teaches the medium at CofC — he's not the kind that works with stone, marble, or clay. Instead, Charzewski works with a vast assortment of materials to create, almost exclusively, site-specific installations on a grand scale. In the past, he's carved oversized army men out of books on warfare, constructed a massive false landscape out of discarded clothing, and assembled huge numbers of fishing buoys into a gallery piece that not only overflowed out of the gallery's doors, but looked like it could bob away any minute. "I've always made stuff, since I was a kid — I made art, I made things," Charzewski says. "I never thought of it as sculpture. But I think what makes someone a sculptor is a physical connection to materials ... there's a lot of construction, renovations, those sorts of things in my background, so I was brought up that way, to be very physical with materials. I had a creative background as well, and needed to merge the two." Charzewski grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and maintains a strong artistic connection to the region's wide open, prairie landscape. "I think it has a lot to do with me becoming an installation artist — that spatial concept. Winnipeg is vast. You can see forever, and you think about that space between you and the distance." It's ironic, he adds, that he ended up in Charleston, "where every little closet space is spoken for. It's really a contrasting environment, but still helpful. You use what you have." After graduating from college at the University of Manitoba, Charzewski spent time managing the school's art studio, which immersed him in the local art community. "I was saturated with art in general," he says. "I got really involved in the art scene in Winnipeg, which is a wonderful environment to be growing up in as an artist. I think it's something to do with the winters — people retreat to their basements and make art all winter long. Then summer comes and all this art and music and theater comes out. It's amazing." As much as he loved being a part of the city's artistic community, he still wasn't fully committed to being an artist himself. After a few years of wandering, both figuratively and literally — including a year-long stay in Nassau in the Bahamas — Charzewski enrolled as an MFA student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. It was only at that point, he says, that he really started taking his art seriously. "I graduated [college] in 1996, but I wasn't applying myself," he says. "It's only looking back that you realize that. I was older when I decided to go to grad school, and that's when I said, 'I'm really going to push hard and do this.'" Shortly after he finished at the University of Minnesota, in 2006, he landed a position at CofC. Now he's an associate professor — he just gained his tenure in May and is on sabbatical until next January. It's a good thing, too, because Charzewski has plenty keeping him busy for the next several months. He's currently working on projects for his shows in Fredericksburg and at Winthrop. Right now, the project he's focused on is the cable piece, which will be an exploration of the human instinct to collect. "I've been thinking a lot about the things people collect, things we unconsciously collect," he says. "I have this box of cables in my house, I think everybody has that box. Why don't we throw it away? Somehow, unconsciously, we cannot separate from it. 'Oh, this is good quality, I'm going to keep it, it might come in handy someday.' I wanted to do something with those cables." He did a project on the same concept for the 2013 ArtFields festival in Lake City, S.C. That piece used flower vases — you know, like the ones you probably have stashed somewhere in your kitchen, where they've sat unused for years. "It was a similar thing: we cannot sever ourselves from these objects. Maybe it has sentimental value, or there's a memory we want to preserve. So I put this call out on campus that I wanted those vases, and I ended up with about 500 of them. Maybe this is what people are waiting for when they save these things." Once the cable installation has been set up and torn down, Charzewski will charge ahead with his next endeavor — whatever that may be. "I just try to be busy," he says. "I'm not happy unless I'm busy, inventing something new. It always happens pretty spontaneously."

Congratulations to the new South Carolina Arts Commission Fellows!

The South Carolina Arts Commission Board has awarded FY2016 Individual Artist Fellowships to four South Carolina artists in the categories of  visual arts, craft, music: composition and music: performance. Each artist receives $5,000. This year's fellows (pictured above, left to right):

Fellowships recognize and reward the artistic achievements of South Carolina's exceptional individual artists. Fellowship awards are made through a highly competitive, anonymous process and are based on artistic excellence only. The fellowship awards bring recognition that may open doors to other resources and employment opportunities. The S.C. Arts Commission board approves fellowships based on recommendations made by out-of-state review panelists, who select fellows based solely on a review of anonymous work samples. This year's visual arts and craft judges were Alida Fish, photographer and professor emerita at the College of Art and Design, University of the Arts in Philadelphia; Christopher Schmidt, artist and director of the Schmidt-Dean Gallery in Philadelphia.; and Mi-Kyoung Lee, artist and associate professor of Crafts and head of Fibers at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. The music composition and performance judges were Robert Tanner, composer and faculty member of the music department at Morehouse College in Atlanta; and Helen Kim, violinist, assistant concertmaster of the Atlanta Opera Orchestra and faculty member at Kennesaw State University. Individual artists working in poetry, prose, dance choreography or dance performance may apply for the FY2017 fellowship awards. Applications open Aug. 3, 2015, and the deadline to apply is Nov. 2, 2015. For more information about S.C. Arts Commission programs and services, visit www.SouthCarolinaArts.com or call (803) 734-8696.