Brooklyn-based artist Shari Mendelson has become widely known for her handmade sculptures created from discarded plastic bottles and other detritus of everyday life. Inspired by ancient vessels, her interest lies in the balance between emulating antiquity and creating her own unique sculpture.
Mendelson spends hours studying ancient artifacts from various museums and institutional collections. She considers the object’s original purpose, the great civilizations that made them, and what the remaining objects from our time— largely plastic waste— will communicate about us to future civilizations.
At first glance, Mendelson’s work closely resembles the glass or ceramic upon which it is modeled; however, upon closer inspection a logo, recycling stamp, or bottle expiration date reveals its actual material. Using discarded plastic water, soda, and juice bottles Mendelson reinterprets notable ancient vessels. She collects, takes apart, and hot-glues or sews the plastic parts into new sculptures. The layered, drippy, whimsical works serve as unique “contemporary relics.” Using recycled trash to make works that reference elegant objects of the past offers Mendelson the opportunity to playfully explore the transformation of form and material while reflecting on issues of history and culture.
Mendelson’s vessels reside in a number of public and private museum collections including The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX, the Hood Museum, Hanover, NH, the RISD Museum, Providence, RI, and the Museum of Old and New Art in Australia. Her works have also been featured in The New York Times, Architectural Digest, Elle Décor among other notable publications.
Mendelson has been awarded the prestigious Pollock Krasner Foundation Grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In addition, she has been invited to participate in respected artists residencies including a the Bau Institute/Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, NY, the Corning Museum of Glass, Yaddo, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the MacDowell Colony.
Speaking of Mendelson’s work in 2018 on the popular art blog Hyperallergic, writer Thomas Micchelli says, “Internal crosscurrents enliven Mendelson’s sculptures, which are combinations of linear classicism, absurd over-decoration, and the aesthetics of the landfill….
This makes for the kind of awkward fluidity found in a Sumerian jug or an Egyptian amulet. But these vessels, as the artist frequently titles them, are often so elaborately ornamented with riffs off their original models that they seem to be sitting on the opposite end of the Platonic ideal — transformed into art by the sheer inutility of their forms.”