Washburn's installation<br /> Pressure Drop<br /> for Richard Stands

Photo of Washburn’s installation Pressure Drop for Richard Stands

Phoebe Washburn (NC ’96) By Rebecca O’Malley Gipson (PA ’21)

Phoebe Washburn is an American contemporary artist known for her intricate and large-scale installations that often incorporate recycled materials and explore themes related to ecology, sustainability, and the interconnectedness of natural systems. Her installation art reuses discarded industrial materials to create large-scale architectural environments. Her work focuses on material and process. “The shapes are less about form than they are about the activity involved in amassing and assembling the forms.”

Born in 1973 in Poughkeepsie, New York, Washburn received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Newcomb College in 1996 and her Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2002.

Washburn’s artworks are complex and labor-intensive constructions, often resembling ecosystems or self-contained worlds. She frequently employs salvaged materials and discarded objects. For example, for each box she reuses, she keeps the outer labels and stamps on the box intact, but paints the inside flaps with discarded pastel mistints and custom-mixed latex paint colors. Her installations challenge viewers to consider the delicate balance of nature and human environmental impact.

Washburn considers her use of cast-off materials to be, in effect, a shift of perspective. Washburn draws attention to the importance of an alternative way of looking at things by sometimes including a viewing platform in her installations. Visitors may climb up, then look down to get a visual surprise, for instance, a swirling vortex of color in a cardboard canyon.

Phoebe Washburn has exhibited her art widely, both nationally and internationally, and has received critical acclaim for her innovative approach to sculpture and installation. Her work has been displayed in prestigious institutions and galleries, contributing to meaningful discussions about art, ecology, and the environment.