Kasia Ozga

May 23 to May 30

Kasia Ozga, Green Graffiti, Ohio, May 2023.

I am obsessed with the texture of tree bark in the wild. Nooks, crags, and crannies constantly beckon the lens of my camera as I lag behind my family of hikers, documenting every strange shape that catches my eye. I am fascinated by the impulse to mark-making on a living thing. Yesterday, I came upon row upon row of vandalized trees in a State Forest.

The idea of tattooing a person against their will evokes images of slavery and genocide but maybe my metaphor means I am too shocked-sensitive to violence. The ritual scarification of nature is benign for many people. Cutting through cork is a form of proof: a testament of love from Robin Hood to Maid Marian, a memory engraved in a blackboard that will outgrow your body, a permanent way to state ‘I was here.”

May 16 to May 23

Kasia Ozga, Barbe Espagnol (Spanish Moss), Lafayette, Louisiana, May 2023.

I flew South like a migrating bird, towards the Atlantic Ocean and the petrochemical plants. Between the storied buildings of academia and the strip malls of urban sprawl, there was a carefully curated swamp, complete with do-not-feed alligators and roving turtles. Water oozed between overgrown ferns, with toads bobbing in and out of muddy alcoves between the undergrowth. Mature majestic trees, covered in Spanish Moss and otherwise protected in their 100+ year-old glory by the esteemed Live Oak Society, surrounded the space.
Neither Spanish nor moss, the flowering plants straight out of a William Faulkner novel dangled over tree limbs and swayed with a unhurried tempo as hot air rose up and over the ground. Magical and rootless, Tillandsia usneoides receives nutrients directly from the air and rainwater. Small fragmented festoons break off of the main plant, flutter, and regrow like starfish once they find a good place to call home.

Kasia Ozga, Swamp, Lafayette, Louisiana, May 2023.

May 9 to May 16

Observatory 1, Digital Photograph, April 2023
Observatory 2, Digital Photograph, April 2023

In a small town in the middle of nowhere somebody convinced somebody else that it was worthwhile to look up at the stars. They began by looking up and out into the vastness of the night. By aligning lenses and recognizing patterns, they mapped moons and dust tumbling away from collisions between frozen rocks and molten lava. While entering numbers on a worn paper ledger or an outdated computer terminal, they imagined worlds colliding and created anew what we could see as we focused our vision away from our tiny earthbound bodies. Then the air around became muddied with the blue light of a million monitors. We decided we could get a better view by sending mechanical emissaries beyond this brave o’erhanging firmament. Our observatories remained on the ground, reminding us of what once was.

April 25 to May 2

If a tree falls…, Digital Photograph, April 2023.

If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? … I went to wander in the woods at the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. T-shirts to snow and back again. Tiny saplings were pulling themselves out of the undergrowth, bluebells hesitantly unfurling their petals, deer footprints still fresh in the mud. We walked for a few hours with the sound of birds whistling in the air above us and the river rushing underfoot. Every 10 minutes, the air was punctuated by gun shots. Louder and louder they came in a cascade of rounds fired with deafening precision. The explosive noise of slick bullets raining on targets or beer bottles or whatever was propped up on the back porch of the house next door barricaded by pickup trucks parked on the front lawn. Wishing it would end, we walked to our car in silence.

April 18 to April 25

Slide, Digital Photograph, April 2023.

I am about to travel to 4 States in 3 weeks. I am waiting with baited breath for the future to announce itself. I’m looking up and slipping down. Disoriented. Ready. Backing away. Showing off and asking for help. Trying to maintain my balance. Learning by watching others. Avoiding puddles. Gripping handholds. Seeing how far I can reach. Calling out. Trying again. Maybe this time.

March 7 to March 14

Partially Buried, Colorized Digital Photograph, March 2023.

Robert Smithson created one of his first works of land art, Partially Buried Woodshed, during a one week artist residency at Kent State University (Ohio, USA) in January 1970. The piece, a form of radical “anti urban planning,” infamously argues that demolition can be a valid an artistic practice.  To make the work, he partially buried an abandoned 220 m3 wooden shack by pouring twenty truckloads of soil upon it, until the frame of the building bent and cracked under the weight. Once the action was completed he, together with his New York gallerist, officially estimated the value of the work at $10,000. Smithson formally transferred ownership to the university while insisting that it subscribe to an insurance policy to prevent damaged or destruction during maintenance. After the site’s outer wall was tagged with the date of “May 4, Kent ’70,” in reference to the famous shooting by the national guard at Kent State that day, the structure itself was partially burned by arsonists in 1975 leading the University to deny responsibility for the artwork as Smithson’s widow, artist Nancy  Holt, fought to preserve it.

After writing about Smithson’s work in my Ph.D thesis 10 years ago, I was finally able to make my own pilgrimage to the artwork’s remains in March 2023. The dilapidated mound now has a small blue commemorative plaque that reads “On this site, Robert Smithson (1938-1973) at the invitation of the students and faculty of the School of Art, began Partially Buried Woodshed / January 1970.” A while ago, underneath the label, someone had scrawled the name “HOLT” in white paint that was now slowly wearing off. Nancy Holt passed away a year before the University installed the sign in 2015.

March 7 to March 14

Lady of the Lake, Digital Photograph, South Carolina, February 2023.

In the legends of King Arthur, the Lady of the Lake is an ambiguous mythical figure, an enchantress who emerges from the mists of Avalon to affect the course of history. In versions of the stories by different authors, she is sometimes one person and sometimes many, representing various tropes of a woman as a caregiver/healer, temptress, wise woman, and sorceress. Also know as variants of Nimue or Viviane, she lived in an otherworldly realm under the water where she raised Lancelot and changed historical events in the real, physical world. In various versions of the Matter of Britain stories, she gives the sword Excalibur to Arthur, saves Arthur when he is near death, and intervenes at pivotal moments in the collected stories. As a symbol of a powerful and independent woman, she alternately rejects, imprisons, and eliminates Merlin while also learning from him and carrying forward the long tradition of female Celtic goddesses associated with water. The Lady of the Lake exists like a cloud that forms when cold air drifts across relatively warm water, between and beyond our sense of touch, distorting our vision and inviting us to perceive the unseen.

February 23 to March 1

Carcasse, Digital Photograph, February 2023.

Built between 1925 and 1926 at a cost of $30 Million USD, the Avon Lake power plant was shut down in 2021. The power station processed over 4,000 tons of coal a day and was cited by the Environmental Protection Agency for emissions violations.

The nonprofit Clean Air Task Force’s study from 2010 concluded that death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Avon Lake power station include: 29 deaths, 47 heart attacks, 440 asthma attacks, 21 hospital admissions, 17 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 23 asthma ER visits PER YEAR.

February 15 to February 22

White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), New Mexico, Digital Photograph, February 2023.

WSMR is the largest military installation in the United States. It was the detonation site of Trinity, the first atomic bomb on 16 July 1945. The road to the Headquarters includes road signs prohibiting the use drones and forbidding the use marijuana, and warning drivers not to take photos, not to leave their cars due to potential traces of radioactive contamination, and not to remove trinitite, a mildly radioactive light green glass formed from melted desert sand in the seconds after the first nuclear weapon was detonated (I was tempted). This image was taken from Aguirre Springs Road, just west of the Range visible on the upper right hand of the photograph.

February 7 to February 14

Circus, Digital Photograph, 2023

I find dioramas mesmerizing. The Immel Circus contains 2,620 hand crafted pieces: thirty-six elephants, 186 horses, 102 assorted animals, ninety-one wagons, seven tents, and 2,207 people. A miniature embodied postcard from another era, it restages and celebrates the past with an impressive fidelity to detail. The effect is uncanny: I imagine myself as a child among the crowds of plastic figurines, grasping for cotton candy and bursting with laughter as clowns take over the horse-drawn squad car.

January 24 to January 31 2022

Melt, Digital Video Diary, Aurora, New York, January 2022

I was making paper for a wall drawing for a show in Upstate New York and the steam from the boiler and the hum of the beater began to slowly melt the snow and ice on the outside of the greenhouse that I was working in.

January 10 to January 17

Figure 4, Squier and Davis, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley. 1848.
Black River, Digital Photograph, 01.08.23

I am working on a series of sculptures and installations informed by the sacred geometry and ancient works of the Hopewell, a network of precontact Native American cultures that flourished in settlements along rivers in present-day Ohio and beyond, in the Middle Woodland period (ending around 500 AD). This photo was taken from a pilgrimage to a site in Sheffield Township identified in the Smithsonian Institution’s very first publication, Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley (Squier and Davis, 1848). Some of the earthworks mounds produced during this time are larger and more precise than Stonehenge, even though most have been almost completely eroded by the passage of time and plowed and paved over by white European settlers. The site identified in Lorain County is no longer discernible to the naked eye. The works occupy precise spaces and situate themselves in relation to specific moments in time (often in relation to lunar cycles).

Maybe searching for them will also ground me in the present.

January 1 to January 8 2022

Anemone, Video Diary 12.30.22

Sea anemones are underwater creatures named after terrestrial flowering plants. A ring of tentacles surrounds a central mouth, brimming-no-gushing with life. This movement is uncanny and erotic, pulsating and repulsive. A fitting entrance into a New Year.

December 20 to December 27

Mark-making 1, Digital Photograph, December 2022
Mark-making 2, Digital Photograph, December 2022

These fleeting lines in the snow are random, unintentional, unmakings. They appear as I lift up twigs and branches on my lawn, just one half of an X. They will soon melt. Or be blown over by gusts of wind. Or get trampled on by tiny feet. They could be traces of something I stumbled upon. I can give them my attention or ignore them completely. They are lines made by pulling things away from and outside of their surroundings.

November 29 to December 6

I drove home for the holiday for the first time in fifteen years. 
Shot on Lake Michigan in Wilmette, IL on “Black Friday”.

November 16 to November 23

Goal, Digital Photograph, 2022

I am continuing to explore fog in my photographs. This growing series of images depicts a kind of atmosphere that is at once present and impossible to grasp. A low-lying cloud that also clouds our vision, fog makes the familiar mysterious, even impenetrable, and invited us to reconsider simple, common locations, in a new light.

November 8 to October 15

There is a tall-grass prairie preserve near where I live. In 2015, the Western Reserve Land Conservancy acquired a 63-acre property on the southern edge of the City of Oberlin in Lorain County. The preserve is part of the Black River Watershed and originally belonged to the Copeland family, which was actively involved in the abolitionist movement and the fugitive slave assistance network. The spirit of John Anthony Copeland lives on in this place.

October 5 to October 11

Milk Bar, participatory art installation, 52 bars of soap produced from breast milk, September 25-30, 2022.

In September, I flew to France alone for a week to hang a solo show Œkoumène (Ecumene) at l’Angle, an art center in La Roche-sur-Foron in the Alps. I have a 9 month-old baby that I usually breastfeed multiple times a day. I collected all of the breast milk that my body produced as I was preparing my exhibition and turned it into soap. The bars of soap were given away for free to the public during the show’s opening night. My action came from a desire to foreground the relationship between my body right here (right now) and the neutral white cube of the exhibition space.

September 28 to October 4

Pacific, Digital Photograph, 2018

This photo was taken on Bainbridge Island, WA near Port Madison, in 2018. I have been interested in images of bodies in water for a long time, and seeing the Crown Letter images last week gave me the idea to respond with this photograph.

September 20 to September 27

Greenhouse, Digital Photograph, 2021

June 21 to June 28

Goddesses, Digital Photograph, 2022

March 1 to March 7

Ukraine, August 26, 2007

Kasia Ozga is a Polish French American sculptor and installation artist. Her work explores evolving notions of physical presence by addressing issues such as waste, (im)migration, environmental justice, and bodily integrity. Ozga is a former Kosciuszko Foundation Fellowship recipient, Harriet Hale Woolley grantee from the Fondation des Etats-Unis, Jerome Fellowship recipient at Franconia Sculpture Park, and Paul-Louis Weiller award recipient from the French Académie des Beaux-Arts. Her work has been exhibited in over 10 different countries and she has participated in residencies in Europe and North America including Shakers, Nekatoenea, Pépinières Européennes de Création, ACRE, and KHN. Currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Oberlin College, Ozga holds a Ph.D. from the University of Paris 8, an M.F.A. from the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, and a B.F.A. from the SMFA at Tufts University, Boston.


%d bloggers like this: