Dark Matter…and all the space between


There is matter in the universe that is so small and dense that it does not emit or absorb light. Yet, we infer that it exists based on information we understand about its gravitational effects on the expansion of the universe. According to NASA, we are more convinced of what this dark matter is not than of what it is. It defies gravitational expectations and is not observable with any current imaging technology.

     In the body of work “Dark Matter…and all the space between,” I explore the presence of ideas that have no objective or measurable characteristics: echoes that remain long after a physical entity is no longer here, or forces we sense are affecting us but can’t quite name. What gravitational effect does a place in time or space have on us after we leave it? What energy is still present when a person is no longer with us?

     I use the digital processes of scanning, 3D modeling and printing to consider space and the realness of things. The translucent resin–printed plants are ephemeral in materiality and yet—much like a measurable science experiment—they are very repeatable. However, the scanning device cannot always differentiate between a shadow or reflection and the actual object. The printed rendition of the handmade plant reflects what the scanner sees: the “shell” of the object, a reflection resulting in a hole, a shadow creating an elongated or extra appendage. 

     Through its material affordances, clay has an uncomplicated way of encoding the marks of my hands, storing those actions and recalling them to the world on its surface. The process I use, coiling and pinching, gives volume and mass to my thoughts. I work between porcelain and darker clays to consider intangible ideas from memory and thoughts that are grounded in reality. In contrast to the ethereal nature of the porcelain pieces, the earth-colored potted plants evoke the iron-rich soil of my North Carolina home.

     The lenses in front of the small white and translucent groupings of plants serve to acknowledge the impact of small or unseen events or things. The pieces convey a qualitative relationship that magnifies vulnerability and the willingness to reach out, grow and put out roots even though they might not last; we might compare them to objects that get unpacked after a move, even though they may be repacked and moved again soon.

     Many of the bottles and cut flowers disappear into the matching colored wall behind them, leaving some flower shapes un-tethered and seemingly floating in space. At just the right angle, the piece is split, existing in both shadow and ephemeral realms. This perspective is much like having a thought or understanding just on the periphery of your mind, elusive but still present.

     Our stories are not a quantitative, measurable set of data. But, they are the data that make up our lives, that make us…us. We are a collection of seen and unseen forces and experiences that are both tangible and not. We are all of the ambiguous space between the known and the unknown—the space we know is there because we feel its impact. 

  -Kelly O'Briant