In his 1956 science fiction short story “The Last Question,” Isaac Asimov invites readers to consider the end through the beginning, or the beginning through the end — order and chaos. The plot, set in 2061 and beyond, revolves around a question repeatedly asked by man that stumps even the galaxy’s most sophisticated sentient computers: How might we rebuild our universe despite its inevitable end? How can we reverse entropy?
But while the supercomputer Multivac and human hivemind Zee Prime were concerned with thwarting entropy to preserve life at the end of time, Shannon Rae Lindsey, current artist-in-residence at Casselberry’s Sculpture House, is dedicated to embracing entropy in all its beauty and curiosity. She'll be discussing her work, embracing entropy, and favoring process over product at an artist talk this Friday evening at the Sculpture House.
In August 2004, during a previous career as a pharmacy technician, Lindsey traveled to Arcadia, Florida, to serve the small DeSoto community while residents dealt with the damage following Hurricane Charley. In the midst of her work, Lindsey observed and was intrigued by the unfamiliarity of the familiar. Metal roofing wrapped around telephone poles led her to deeper questions of our understanding of objects, materials and definitions. This was a pivotal moment in Lindsey’s career as an artist, and in her work she began to explore how context changes our perception of an object.
“I hope to re-create that moment of wonder and engagement with the viewer that there’s this little flicker of familiarity and then you’re enticed to get closer and [ask] ‘How do I know what this is?’” Lindsey says.
Lindsey’s current solo exhibition at the Sculpture House showcases new works and new processes from the artist, including screenprinted paper collages and webs of mixed media. But the centerpiece is the sweeping site-specific installations comprised of construction implements — including a lustrous vortex of metal roofing material arranged delicately in large ribbon-like folds — and an entire room of cascading and frayed orange silt fencing.
“The installations are really exciting because they’re really defined by the space,” Lindsey says. “They’re site-specific, they respond to the amount of space that I’m able to use, the architecture, and they are also defined by how much time I have to install them.”
Her residency at this Casselberry gallery space — a former residential home acquired and repurposed by the city of Casselberry as an extension to their city arts program — gave her the opportunity to exhibit her three-dimensional works.
“I’m dependent on this public-facing venue to be able to install installations,” says Lindsey. “Whereas, the two-dimensional stuff obviously looks the same as it does in my studio, the installations are really dependent on having that space, and I like to show them with the two-dimensional work because it really is a two-dimensional and three-dimensional approach to the work itself.”
art by Shannon Rae Lindsey
‘Linoleum Series II,’ mixed media with plaster, fencing, zip ties, washers, acrylic and ink on linoleum, 12.5 x 12.5 inches, 2020
Lindsey’s practice is rooted in Process art, a movement that flourished in the 1960s utilizing nontraditional manufactured materials, with a brief that the act of creating the work was as important, if not more than, the finished work itself.
“I really lean into that because the materials that I use are mostly manufactured construction materials and I discovered them and have spent many years exploring them in my practice because … I have an interest in perception and specifically, how we perceive something as being ordered or disordered, and also, hand-in-hand, being useful or being non-useful,” Lindsey says.
Much of her work revolves around the difficulty in definition, and the fact that how we define things is based on our points of comparison and perspective.
In her process-based approach, Lindsey is less concerned with manipulating objects to fit a preconceived notion, and more with exploring an object’s intrinsic possibilities.
“I don’t really care about these things doing what I want them to do. I want to embrace what it will naturally do,” says Lindsey. “What are the characteristics of these materials and how can I interact with it in different processes to reveal different aspects of them?”
As well as Sculpture House artist-in-residence, Lindsey wears many other hats — mixed media artist, gallery director at UCF Arts, and lecturer at UCF — each of these roles intersecting with and informing the others. She started working in gallery spaces after completing her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts from the University of South Florida, and joined Tampa’s Tempus Projects where she helped build walls, hang art, sweep floors and run lights.
Lindsey understands galleries and museums as integral to an artist’s career, where they can showcase their research and receive feedback from viewers. Her varied roles culminate in the gallery. “This is where students can see their future in terms of a professional venue in which they will show their work, contemporary artists sharing their practice, and the community surrounding all coming together in this one place,” she says.
art by Shannon Rae Lindsey
Materials and Their Impressions,’ wall collage with acrylic screenprints on paper, window screen, flagging tape and wire, dimensions variable, 2022
After this solo exhibition, Lindsey will showcase work at the Snap! Orlando gallery’s “Florida Showcase” group exhibition, followed by a solo show at the Francis Marion University Place Gallery in South Carolina.
“I try to always be productive enough, flexible enough, adaptable enough, to take every opportunity that I can and I don’t want to say no, because this is such a learning experience for me as an artist and so much of my work evolves from these experiences,” Lindsey says.
Shannon Rae Lindsey’s work will be on display at the Casselberry Sculpture House through Aug. 19.