A Burmese photographer fled his country and left everything behind — now he needs your help
By Staff | Photographs by Hong Sar
Viewpoints: “You’re facing a door that doesn’t go anywhere, and you are facing someone who is coming up a different set of stairs. That could be a class division, or a division of politics, but you are engaging the viewer. I get interested in divisions in our country. You can drive outside of Pittsburgh and it seems like a different country. In Wisconsin, the Legislature won’t let the governor do anything.”
How one Postindustrial artist uses reclaimed material from the region to inspire his art~
By Kimberly Palmiero
Watching the steel industry collapse in Western Pennsylvania influenced the artistry of Aristotle Georgiades.
“I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1970s and I watched the whole steel industry disappear,” said Georgiades, a professor of art/sculpture at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
He also grew up with an appreciation for reuse. His childhood spent on the family farm, Georgiades says he is always looking for materials to build his work.
“I remember passing a 100-foot barn when I came home from work one day, about 10 years ago … so I started salvaging a lot of those materials,” he said.
“I have no more places to put things,” he added.
His work ranges from issues of male identity, labor economics, and more recently, the changing American landscape in a post-industrial economy.
Georgiades, who has a master of fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, works in wood, metal, and architectural materials. He has exhibited his sculptural works nationally and internationally in both curated group and solo exhibitions.
He is also part of Actual Size Artworks, a company that produces large-scale permanent and temporary public works.
Right now, they’re working on the design of a greenspace in Middleton, Wis. He has also led public art installations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Germany through Actual Size Artworks.
Old School (the desks): “It’s about education and how it’s prioritized. K-12 teachers are incredible. I’ve used a lot of those materials again because they are imbued with history and because, sometimes I am quite moved when I see these pieces.”
Longing (the bridge): The sculpture is located in Tenney Park lagoon in Madison, Wis.— visible but not close enough to touch — “suggesting a way to cross to the other side that is desired but never attained; we all seem stranded on our own shores.”
How do you select materials?
I used a ton of reclaimed materials for various reasons. For one, I’m interested in reducing what’s in the landfill. Also, you can’t get a lot of those materials anymore. They’re rarefied and I’m interested in using materials that have a history.
We go through life with a job and everything changes — the job goes away and we have a new direction. For example, the bridge in Wisconsin (“Longing”) was constructed with reclaimed materials from a silo.
What influences you in your work?
In my studio sculptures I primarily use reclaimed materials. Underlying much of this work is my concern about wastefulness and the exploitation of labor in the production of our built environment.
These issues are part of my research and my life experience, yet not often obvious in the completed artwork.
What do you hope people take from your art?
I believe in beauty. I hope the work is beautiful in some way. I emphasize craftsmanship. If nothing else, people can take that from it, I hope they start to read the history of these materials, of the ideas that are in it and of those time periods.
The art world is kind of weird and exclusive in a lot of ways. I think art can be smart and speak a broader language.
Kimberly Palmiero is CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Postindustrial Media. She has more than 20 years of experience as an editor, project manager, and small business owner. She previously served as a managing editor for Trib Total Media in Pittsburgh, and also held editing roles with former Gannett news outlets. She is the immediate past president of the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. Reach her at email@example.com.
By Staff | Photographs by Hong Sar
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