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The Beach Washes Up Inside MOCA Jacksonville
Lauren Fensterstock, Domes with Shell Salt from The Order of Things (detail), 2016. Shells, wood, and mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery.

JACKSONVILLE, FLA.- From the beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida, to the rocky coast of Portland, Maine, Lauren Fensterstock orchestrates a colossal collection of shells and disparate objects into a cohesive, organic form.

Interested in natural history and modern art, Portland-based artist Fensterstock transforms MOCA Jacksonville’s Atrium Gallery into a “non-site,” where she takes fragments from a landscape and reframes them within a gallery. Displaced and reinterpreted via natural and artificial materials, “the site” becomes a displaced simile that draws from her excursion to Sanibel Island. Fensterstock’s “Holophusicon,” the next installation in the Museum’s “Project Atrium” series, is on view March 18 through June 18 at MOCA Jacksonville, a cultural institute of the University of North Florida.

Fensterstock’s use of native Florida shells collected on Sanibel Island resonates with the Jacksonville audience. Inspired by one quirky collection and a conceptual artwork, her large ornamental structure merges disparate parts into a single organism.

The installation’s name alludes to the eighteenth-century natural history museum in London, Holophusicon, which housed a collection assembled by Ashton Lever, apparently acquired from the voyages of Captain James Cook.

Fensterstock’s construction pays homage to Robert Smithson’s “Mirror with Crushed Shells,” a work consisting of three mirrors held together by the pressure of a pile of shells collected by Smithson from Sanibel Island in 1969. Smithson’s work was acquired by Andy Warhol and is now part of The Menil Collection in Houston.

Fensterstock creates a site-specific installation that renders the natural world in an entirely synthetic and monochromatic way. Though her monochromatic sculpture appears bleak and sleek from afar, upon closer inspection, intricate layers are revealed. Associations—or perhaps disassociations—between mankind and the natural world surface.

“These two projects have many parallels,” Fensterstock said. “They both involve journeys, the gathering of natural specimens, the arrangement of forms, and a philosophical quest to understand the nature of the world.”

The contents of the shelves are black, but vary in sheen from matte to reflective. Items include natural history artifacts, miscellaneous paraphernalia from Maine and Florida, and black mirrors referencing Smithson’s “Incidents of Mirror-Travel in the Yucatan.” In a few places here and there, stalactite-like accretions grow up and around the shelves.

The Atrium Gallery provides Fensterstock with an opportunity to move up—literally. Throughout her exploration of the natural world and its intersection with modern culture, she has used large, open spaces to create sprawling horizontal work that references the landscape. The very shape of the Atrium pushes her in a new, vertical direction, where a cascading series of black boxes and ornamental details grace the back gallery wall and floor.

“‘Holophusicon’ perfectly pairs the Museum’s interest with showcasing cutting-edge work and yet relevant to the state of Florida,” MOCA Curator Jaime DeSimone said. “In the past year, Fensterstock has received a number of prestigious awards and exhibitions with many that coincide with MOCA Jacksonville’s installation. We’re extremely grateful for her participation.”

Born in 1975 in Towson, Maryland, Fensterstock currently lives in Portland, Maine. She has exhibited her artwork nationally, including shows at the Portland Museum of Art, The John Michael Kohler Art Center, The Albany International Airport, the Boston Center for the Arts, and Drexel University. The United States Artists, which spotlights the importance of originality across every creative discipline, named her a 2016 USA Barr Fellow.

Prior to her exhibition at MOCA Jacksonville, Fensterstock’s work is featured in a solo exhibition at VOLTA NY March 1-5. It’s Fensterstock’s first exhibition at the invitational solo project fair for contemporary art.

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The Beach Washes Up Inside MOCA Jacksonville

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