University Art Gallery showcases inflatable sculptures

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Nicole Banowetz’s work is currently on display in the University Art Gallery. The exhibit, which will run until Dec. 14, kicked off with a reception and a lecture on Thursday, Nov. 8.

The exhibit features inflatable sculptures of different root systems that are inspired by the wetland preserves at SVSU. The exhibition is supported in part by the SVSU biology department and is a recipient of the Dow Visiting Artists & Scholars grant.

Tisch Lewis, the University Art Gallery coordinator, is excited to showcase Banowetz’s art because it is based upon collaboration between the art and biology departments.

“It is the fact that she integrates science and art very well,” Lewis said. “Of course, on campus, it is always STEM, but it’s never STEAM, so I figured this was a way to get people to collaborate. People always talk about collaboration but never do it. I thought that since I already knew this artist, and I knew that she had something valuable to say in our environment, that this was the catalyst to get people to collaborate.”

Banowetz utilizes the natural world in all her work, which is what helped make this collaboration a good fit.

“All of my work is inspired by the natural world,” Banowetz said. “I try to address human qualities while using the imagery I find in the animal, plant, mineral and bacterial worlds. I have made installations inspired by bacteria, parasitic fungus, viruses, radiolaria, rotifers, horses and rhinos.”

Banowetz’s process in creating the inflatable sculptures is a lot of hard work, but the product is really unique.

“All my inflatable artworks follow a similar process,” Banowetz said. “I first find something in nature that inspires me both aesthetically and conceptually. Once I decide on the forms I want to create, I make drawings. Then, I begin to draft paper patterns from breaking the three-dimensional form down into two-dimensional plains. From these paper patterns, I cut pieces of Oxford, a plastic coated fabric. I sew these together on a sewing machine and attach them to a forced air blower. My pieces usually consist of many in atable components that create one installation.”

Theatre sophomore Connor Weiland appreciated the uniqueness of the art.

“Seeing this art form done for one of the first times and seeing these organisms in real life instead of as a tiny thing under a microscope is really cool,” Weiland said. “I think it gives students a better understanding of the biology of the organisms.”

Banowetz encourages aspiring artists to create and explore.

“I think the most important thing is to continue to make art regularly and make sure to always choose activities and work that allow creativity and art making,” Banowetz said.