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Peter Evonuk

Polly Thayer Starr Visiting Studio Artist

Visiting Studio Artist, January-March 2018

In response to his collaboration with the Museum, Visiting Studio Artist Peter Evonuk developed a work of art titled “Cellular Light,” on view in the Studio from March to May 2018.

The organism that is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a strange and beautiful thing. It is an artificial ecosystem balancing an incredible collection of art and artifacts against the ravages of entropy and loss, with an ethereal Victorian garden landscape protected like a pearl against the abrasive climate of the Northeast. Two systems that, at a cursory glance, would seem to be in fundamental opposition, if only for a host of practical constraints. This embrace of systemic dichotomy is a theme, repeated seemingly in nearly every facet of the Museum. The privacy of a home coexists with the gracious accommodation of the public. The collection contains the works of religious devotion along with a four-leaf clover picked from the building site and preserved as a charm. The 19th-century architecture of Willard T. Sears, incorporating fragments of European Gothic and Renaissance periods, is now fused to the 21st-century glass and copper clad creation of Pitzker Prize winning architect Renzo Piano. All of these elements function as an elegant mash-up, puzzling and wonderful.

As an artist, I am fascinated by systems, natural and human, in which we are often unwittingly participants. The realization that nothing is truly discreet, and that interdependence is the rule at any level, has become a core of our understanding of the universe. I try to harness systems as both content and medium to express my thoughts as things. Cellular Light is an active study of systems endemic to the ISGM, utilizing forms and functions derived from this place. Contained between plates of glass, simple organisms live and multiply, their ancient drive to reproduce and spread unchecked by a lack of predation and provided with abundant nutrients and light. This bloom of life clothes a structure engineered to allow a collaboration of sorts. As algae sourced from fountains within the courtyards of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Massachusetts College of Art and Design colonize the etched interior of their new world, they complete a stained glass window filtering the incoming light with their chlorophyll. This result is a mash up of the architecture, functional mechanisms and systems drawn from this unique institution.

About the Artist

Peter Evonuk has been a farm boy, door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman, appliance delivery dude, construction worker, roofer, and woodshop supervisor at several institutions. Originally from the island of Maui, he is presently a metalsmith, sculptor, teacher, and social satirist serving as an instructor and studio manager for the Jewelry and Metalsmithing department at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Peter received his BFA in Sculpture/Metalsmithing and jewelry from the University of Oregon and his MFA in Metalsmithing from the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Peter’s work explores human ingenuity and discovery through the redesign and subversion of the ubiquitous utilitarian device. Chairs, lamps, mouse traps, and teapots, all products produced to address the most basic needs of society, are hijacked, dissected, and used as compositional framework for polemic objects.