Oversight, 2018. Black diamonds, garnets, amethysts, sapphires, rubies, silver, gold, turquoise, and smoky quartz, dimensions variable. Photo: Courtesy Seventeen, London

Susan Collis: Looking at the Overlooked

At first glance, Susan Collis’s “Without you the world goes on,” at the Des Moines Art Center last year, looked more like an after-hours jobsite or an installation in progress than a finished art exhibition. Bundles of wood, a pair of worker’s overalls, a table, ladder, and chair, brooms, some drop cloths, a storage bag, even a tattered blue plastic tarp lay scattered about or were haphazardly pinned to the walls. An aura of abandonment permeated the entire space.

Appearances, however, can be deceiving, particularly in the case of works by this British artist. Those piles of seemingly discarded construction materials are, in fact, carved exotic woods overlaid with lapis lazuli and silver; storage blankets are woven out of cashmere, silk, and other fine threads. What appear as paint splatters and stains are instead hand-stitched embroidery or inlays of precious stones and vinyl. Insisting on another, closer look, these and other deceptions turn things on their head . . .

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