For the past several years, Sara Mejia Kriendler’s work has responded to life in New York City where consumption is king and the natural world appears to have been vanquished by the man-made. She has used plastic packaging, styrofoam and the artifacts of consumer culture as the primary materials in her sculptures and installations. A recent trip to Colombia, her mother’s homeland, inspired a change in her work.
“My mother comes from Pereira, an agricultural center in Colombia. I became interested in how the battle between the natural and the man-made plays out in a place focused on producing and growing - a place where nature still dominates.”
After the trip, Sara started to produce a series of relief sculptures that reflect an agrarian landscape and incorporate raw materials such as palm leaves.
For these pieces, Sara weaves palm leaves through through sheets of wire mesh typically used in construction. Then, she pours hydrocal - a material she describes as having the appearance of plaster but strength of cement - through the weaving and allows it to seep through and set.
"I like the idea that I can’t fully control the outcome which is fun and scary at the same time. The piece is about the interaction between the hydrocal and the palm leaves. I love how the leaves resist the hydrocal.”
Sara also weaves bright green strips of plastic tarp from Colombia to contrast raw and man-made materials. She says the tarps are used throughout Colombia for construction and agriculture.
“As they disintegrate, they shed strips of plastic that litter the landscape. I loved the contrast of the greens - the natural and the artificial - and wanted to weave them together in my reliefs.”
In a related project, Sara draws inspiration from the book, Robinson Crusoe, in which the protagonist is stranded on an island for 28 years, 2 months, and 19 days.
Sara sees the novel as the the story of a man adapting to a new ecosystem, and she’s creating a series of relief sculptures that reflect Crusoe’s process of adaptation and survival.
“What interests me most about Crusoe, is his use of accounting as a tool for his physical survival as well as a tool for his emotional survival. Not only does he keep tabs on his materials, but he also keeps tabs on his experience, his story, and the lessons he learns.”
Each relief sculpture in this new series contains 365 tally marks; Sara plans to account for every day Crusoe was on the island. These reliefs play with the concept of tallies as one of the first forms of mark-making. In order to create these reliefs, Sara weaves shredded dollar bills into sheets of wire mesh and casts them in hydrocal.
“One of Crusoe’s biggest concerns was how he’d write - and how he’d account for things - if he ran out of ink. I was thinking about what I’d do. I liked the idea of weaving as a form of writing, and there was a dollar bill sitting on my desk. I figured it would make for good thread, and I liked the notion that I could account for something using the material - dollar bills - we’re usually accounting for.”
Sara’s interest in island landscapes are evident elsewhere in her studio where she’s experimenting with miniature models.For the next few months, Sara will continue to experiment with this body of work and will develop a new series to present in January in a two-person show with her friend, Juliette Dumas, at The Chimney in Brooklyn.
Photography by: Taylor Burt
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