( Video courtesy of John Michael Kohler Arts Center)
Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels (b. Knoxville, TN) works in site-responsive sculptural installations embedded into pre-existing architectural contexts. Her sculptural interventions and outcroppings transform mundane architectural features into sites of imaginative disruption, unexpectedly shifting our sense of reality, and revealing the significant role our environment plays in our perceptions of being. Where is the border between the physical world and our imagined version of it, and how can one become the other? What becomes possible when they do?
Bothwell-Fels’ "architecture-of-becoming" draws from fictional traditions of imagining, ranging from the folkloric to science-fictive, and produces hybridized forms that conflate the bodily, the environmental, and the architectural, intentionally defying categorization. Pulling from source materials like illustrated cross-sections of lactating breasts and erupting volcanoes, this language becomes synthesized in work that literally bursts through the floor of the gallery, bulges joint compound, tessellates lathe, and manipulates reconstituted components of residential construction. Bothwell-Fels’ sculptural ecosystems pierce the architectural facade of banality with fantastical outcroppings of growths, pores, wrinkles, spills, fractalized structures, and rupture, inviting a reassessment the norms that are established and reinforced through the physical materiality of our built environments.
Initially trained as a social psychologist at Stanford University, then as a metalsmith at the Appalachian Center for Craft, Bothwell Fels received her MFA from Columbia University. Her work has been presented at the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), The Clocktower Gallery (NYC), Pioneer Works (Brooklyn), University of Wisconsin (Oshkosh), BRIC (Brooklyn), Sun Valley Center for the Arts (Ketchum), and Smack Mellon (Brooklyn). She is the recipient of a Peter S. Reed Foundation Award, Purchase College’s Windgate Fellowship, and a 2019 NYFA Architecture/Environmental Structure/Design Finalist.
Bothwell Fels’ first museum solo show Beauty Surplus is currently on view at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center through May 2020.