The works in Backyard Icing by PNCA's sculpture artist-in-residence Jenene Nagy, are messy assemblages in which textures and forms collide and interpretations abound. Made from discarded objects found in a dumpster, Nagy's sculptures revel in the physicality of their materials. Porous foam, uneven patches of dried house paint, nails and pushpins are painted and drizzled with lumpy plaster. According to Nagy, she sees the resulting works as cake-like, in which her surfaces are iced with plaster and decorated with all the elaborate ornamentation of a six-layer cake. And while there are some sweet features—orange sprinkles, a sugary substance inlaid in the foam—her works more often feel like studies of snow-frosted plants or surreal arctic plains.
"Fading Tan Ledge" combines a cluster of white pod-like shapes propped up by twisting wires, greenish pins, and an icy material that coats the craggy grooves of the foam backing. It's hard not to read the pod cluster as a bunch of frozen flowers, perhaps bulbous poppy heads. In "Icy Blue Pond," Nagy presents a landscape of two icy rectangular blocks dotted by brown-headed pushpins and draped with flimsy strips of dried blue paint, as another pod cluster towers over the scene. It seems clear that the pins are meant to stand for trees and the swatches of blue paint for water. But what is fascinating about this depiction, and also in "Fading Tan Ledge," is how Nagy represents the natural through such explicitly synthetic materials, which is underscored in a kind of representational breakdown.
The trees of "Icy Blue Pond" are reduced to prototypes, in which an iconic representation stands for all trees. And the dried paint that signifies water seems less a part of the terrain, as it rests on top of the surfaces and even droops over edges.
In Nagy's tiny environments, landscapes composed of man-made detritus pose as the real thing, while calling attention to their artifice. They may look sickly sweet and, at times, even a little half-baked, but the works in "Backyard Icing" offer a fascinating recipe for representing nature.