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Beauty in Decay 

Margot Casstevens’ art can be enjoyed for just a little while

click to enlarge Margot Casstevens at work on Flesh, her new show. - MIKE MCCALL
  • Mike McCall
  • Margot Casstevens at work on Flesh, her new show.

Everything is temporary. Everything. That’s often the takeaway of Margot Casstevens’ work. In her December 2011 show “Seed Folk,” her sculptures — casts of bodies and hands — were interwoven with living clumps of green grass. In another show, she made her work out of rice paper — publicly dissolving it at the end of the month in water to prove how temporary it all was.

Casstevens regularly explores the human form in her work, and this month she takes another stab at both themes — the body, the impermanence of it all. In a show at the Saranac Art Projects with another artist (and Inlander contributor), Carrie Scozzaro, the pair presents “FLESH.” The word came first. The two pondered it, and what came out was something completely different.

Scozzaro’s half of the gallery is dark. Tiny human sculptures fill a shelf, all with different found objects for heads. A matchbook head, a human ear head, a clock head. There are Barbie dolls wrapped like Egyptian pharoahs with heads of ravens and snakes. Flesh is explored in a dark, animalistic form.

On Casstevens’ side of the gallery, flesh takes on a more clinical meaning. Along the walls hang two perfectly straight rows of 128 deflated white balloons. When you look close, each balloon is different: one has a tiny drawing of a human skull. On another, shoulder muscles. There are leg bones and joints, close-up cross sections of the eye and the jaw and the intestinal tract.

“I liked that [the balloons are] very skin-like. It is skin that is maybe not in its first freshness,” she says. “We start out young and inflated and plumpy, and as we get older we get sort of deflated and wrinkled and flabby and things droop and become slightly humorous. And it has those qualities.”

And even more, the balloons evoked that sense of impermanence that she loves.

“The media itself is temporary,” Casstevens says. “But that doesn’t stop people from collecting them.” She was surprised when people bought the tiny deflated balloons at the show’s opening earlier this month.

“I said [to one customer], ‘You know these aren’t going to last,’” she says, “And he said, ‘I’ll enjoy watching them decay.’”

“Flesh” featuring works by Margot Casstevens and Carrie Scozzaro • On display through Sept. 28 • Saranac Art Projects • 25 W. Main Ave. • Open Thu, noon-5 pm; Fri and Sat, noon-8 pm •

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