Bunny Tobias debuts new artwork made from reclaimed materials—and a fierce philosophy of recycled art—in Elegance of Mutation, a solo exhibition at form & concept. The longtime Santa Fe artist is known for charming, surreal artworks made from found objects and natural materials. For the first time, Tobias will distill her thoughts on recycled art into a single manifesto, which she’ll unveil at the reception. Elegance of Mutation opens on Friday, November 25 from 5-7 pm at form & concept, and runs through February 18. The exhibition coincides with the gallery’s Radical Jewelry Makeover Artist Project group show.
“I live on a rural property, and I’ll often find pretty interesting rusted pieces on the ground,” says Tobias. The artist resides and works in a 300-year-old house in Glorieta Pass, which was the site of pioneer encampments and Civil War action. “I made a number of jewelry pieces from these rusted objects for a Museum of International Folk Art show, and that sparked my interest in repurposing materials,” she says. Ever since, Tobias has incorporated ephemera into her diverse artworks. She fearlessly blurs the lines between mediums, drawing upon over forty years of experience as a ceramicist, collage artist, sculptor and jeweler.
Tobias has exhibited her jewelry in form & concept’s shop since the gallery opened last May, but this is the first time her sculptural work has appeared in the space. The artwork in Elegance of Mutation is a curious menagerie; there’s a repurposed porcelain tool from a balloon-making factory that looks like a flamingo, a horse-drawn jet plane made from tin and plastic children’s toys, and an assemblage featuring a compass, a tiny chair and a three-pronged fork.
I love vintage material, and I’ve always been interested in surrealism, Dada art, and Arte Povera” says Tobias. “I can relate to these periods of art, because I love taking material that once had another purpose and turning it into something new.” Inspired by these modernist movements and their radical mission statements, Tobias has prepared an Elegance of Mutation manifesto to accompany her artwork. “Anything and everything is capable of morphing: ideas, objects, functions and materials,” reads an early draft of the document. “Unexpected logic and rhythms, perverse and unpredictable associations, comic improvisations—those are all part of the elegance of mutation.”
Elegance of Mutation appears in conjunction with Radical Jewelry Makeover Artist Project, a program that has traveled the world since 2007. The project educates jewelers of all levels about mining and material sourcing issues involved in jewelry making through a fun, fast-paced, month-long project. It challenges jewelers to create work from the tangled chains, unmatched earrings and banged up bracelets sitting at the bottom of jewelry boxes. Tobias sees Santa Fe’s manifestation of Radical Jewelry Makeover as a perfect accompaniment to her solo exhibition. “There’s a relationship between the jewelry show and my work, which is transforming found objects by putting a whole new concept into play,” she says. “The materials speak to me. It’s all about making pure art.”