Poison Play

THIS ESSAY HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE MAY 2016 ISSUE OF ACES MAGAZINE

On view in the Islip Art Museum is a selection of artwork that examines the toxic relationship between industrial innovations and the environment. The exhibition, Poison Play, was curated by Museum Exhibitions & Curatorial Director/Curator Beth Giacummo and features the artwork of Margaret DeLima, Scott McIntire, John Sabraw, and Anne Seelbach. Through their artwork, each artist explores the detrimental effects of mankind’s carbon footprint on the world as natural resources are exploited for technological advancement and the dumping of bio-hazardous materials forever changes ecosystems.

Margaret DeLima alters the environment of the museum’s smallest gallery with her site-specific installation The Imprinted, which features 500 papier-mâché ducks that are group together in the center of the exhibition space. Each sculpted figure cranes its neck upward as a gesture of imprinting on the viewer, similar to how newborn wildlife impresses on their caregivers as a sign of love and trust. No matter where the viewer stands in the space to observe the installation, he or she will find several hundred ducks that extends its neck towards him or her. Upon viewing the work, one cannot help but feel responsible for the creatures’ wellbeing as their innocently helpless gestures imply connotations of trust. Hanging along the walls, below eye-level, are several pinned photographs that capture the process of how these sculptures are crafted. These pictures of the papier-mâché ducks, some yet to be colored, appear lifeless and stiff as they rest on their sides. These pictures are in stark contrast with the figures in the exhibition space that seem to inspire a sense of life within each figure.

Margaret DeLima

Margaret DeLima, The Imprinted (2016), Courtesy of the Islip Art Museum

Hanging in the hallways of the Islip Art Museum is a collection of paintings taken from Scott McIntire’s BioArt, Dark Energy and Energy series. Through these works, the artist addresses environmental concerns that often go unseen, rendering energy signatures generated from radio waves, cell phone transmissions, fracking, and global warming. The artist pairs these vibrant fields of energy with vivid depictions of vegetation, wildlife, and industrial power lines, in an effort to bring a sense of familiarity to the viewer as he or she contemplates the negative energy around his or herself.

Scott McIntire, Roadt Trip #3 (2011), Courtesy of the Islip Art Museum

Scott McIntire, Road Trip #1 (2011), Courtesy of the Islip Art Museum

The largest gallery of the museum plays host to an arrangement of John Sabraw’s Chroma paintings. Here, the artist finds a productive alternative to contaminated materials by using them to create pulsating, large-scale works of art. In this series of work, Sabraw’s utilizes powdered iron oxide pigments, and other toxic materials that he has found in abandoned coalmines deserted caves and polluted streams. His abstracted circular paintings resemble blown up microcosms of toxic environments as if they are been observed from underneath a microscope lens. The paintings’ size and illuminating palettes, along with a poster explaining Sabraw’s artistic process and sealed jars of contaminated water and grounded pigments, warrants the viewer to contemplate the ramifications these poisonous materials have on the earth.

chroma s4 tribute

John Sabraw, Chroma S4 Tribute (2016), Courtesy of the Islip Art Museum

The final exhibition space features mixed media works of art taken from Anne Seelbach’s Troubled Waters Series along with the site-specific installation piece Marine World Maze. In this series of work, inspired by a mutated fish discovered by the artist along the shores of Sag Harbor, the artist draws the viewer’s attention to aquatic life and how manmade toxins such as pesticides, herbicide, and sewage runoff, influences natural environments and maritime development. The works exhibited here engage in a dialogue with the viewer, as they address the concerns of Long Island’s polluted water systems, the disposal of chemical and industrial waste, and how it influences the development and wellbeing of innocent oceanic life.

Anne Seelbach Courtesy of Gary Mamay

Anne Seelbach, Sunken Structure (2016), Courtesy of Gary Mamay

Poison Play features artists whose work explores the toxic ramifications technology has on the environment. The exhibition runs in conjunction with the Museum Shop exhibition Lazara, which features artwork by Caitlyn Shea. Both exhibitions were curated by Museum Exhibitions & Curatorial Director/Curator Beth Giacummo and are on view at the Islip Art Museum until June 5, 2016.

Jay Schuck


Image of Anne Seelbach’s work is courtesy of Gary Mamay

All other images courtesy of the Islip Art Museum