Roxy Paine

American artist Roxy Paine does not purposefully strive to create realism in his artworks, although his sculptures appear as genuine imitations of natural systems, whether arboreal, neurological, industrial, vascular or mycological. Paine’s organic forms arise from his meticulous study of growth patterns in nature and his adherence to such structural principles.

One Hundred Foot Line (2010) is a tall, winding sculpture currently standing outside the National Gallery of Canada. Made of stainless steel pipes and resembling a lightning bolt, it examines the vertical extension of a tree’s trunk. If we were to eliminate all leaves, twigs and branches except those following the most vertical line of a tree, we would be left with this simple stem.

One Hundred Foot Line is part of Paine’s Dendroid series, which explores the collision of vascular networks, tree roots, fungal mycelia and industrial piping. From this same series, Neuron (2009) is a piece that depicts a different type of branch: that of a nerve cell. The similar patterns in One Hundred Foot Line and Neuron remind us that all things in nature are linked in the way they are structurally formed.

Paine’s interest in stainless steel arises from its use in oil, gas, food and pharmaceutical industries. This choice of material also further emphasizes a major theme in his work: the relationship between nature and the man-made in our modern world. Often, Paine’s sculptures are imposters to their surrounding environment. Conjoined (2007), which depicts two trees with intertwined branches, was exhibited among the trees of Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Is this what the tree of the dystopian future will look like, once our natural world has been eradicated? Paine remarks how nature is increasingly intruded upon by our technology, also extending this notion into the realm of the human body. In Distillation (2010), a vascular...
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Samantha Laub


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