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'Snails and the Infinite'- an exhibition of sculpture by Robin Carlson
March 13 - April 13. Creal Microgallery presents ‘Snails and the Infinite,' an exhibition of small sculptures by Portland, Maine artist Robin Carlson. These sculptures depict a playful grouping of snails sporting a range of surreal alternatives to traditional shells.
Carlson describes ‘play’ as being one of the primary motivators in her artistic process. “My world, the things I am passionate about and what matters to me at the end of the day, is a place where ‘play’ is taken seriously and everything is a puzzle. Problem solving becomes silly and fun.” The results are indeed silly and fun— snail shells made of sushi, or ice cream sundaes, or gruesomely dislodged eyeballs. They harken back to gift shop miniatures, to emojis, and in some instances to comics and gross-out toys of the 80s and 90s. Carlson says she’s been making toys since she was around 6-7 years old, and has always enjoyed collecting things. Over time she has grown to enjoy creating her own toy collections, exploring variations on a theme. By working from a constant starting point— in this case the snail— she enjoys exploring the infinite possibilities for play.
So, why snails? Carlson says they remind her of the “deep realities of life. When I concentrate on the smallness of the world, the bugs beneath our feet, the flowers popping up in spring, a broken egg on the sidewalk, I remember to be appreciative of nature and all that is small. Within the form of the humble snail is infinity.” Carlson also sees snails as a great example of the universal law of duality: soft and hard, malleable and fragile, fleeting and ancient. The shell is structural, defined and geometric. But a snail’s body is amorphous, ever-changing and organic. It is almost ironic then, that the shell becomes the shapeshifting canvas. Like a hermit crab making a tin can its new home, Carlson swaps in birthday cake or spaghetti and meatballs in place of a snail shell. She encourages viewers to look more closely and pay attention. Carlson’s work invites viewers to use their imaginations and remain open to the unexpected.