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David Ebbinghouse: Bringing Art Down To Earth

Sustainability is very much in the air – on the Indiana University campus and beyond.

The idea behind the College of Arts and Sciences Themester of coordinated lectures, exhibitions and performances, 'sustain.ability,' seems to be part of a larger zeitgeist in south-central Indiana.

Sustainability And Poetic Justice

Longtime Bloomington artist David Ebbinghouse's current exhibit shows sculptures made mostly from recycled food packaging. Poetic justice is served by the show's installation at The Inner Chef, a downtown purveyor of upscale kitchen gadgetry. One is forced simultaneously to consider the come-on of a Le Creuset casserole, and the shame of an abandoned candy bar wrapper.

The head of the coöp Bellevue Gallery for many years, Ebbinghouse has always made it his intent to work outside of the commercial gallery scene. He's made a living doing everything from framing houses to importing beads. So it's partly out of economic necessity, but also very clearly as a critique of the commerce-driven art world, that Ebbinghouse has recently turned to so-called worthless, discarded materials.

The Show

Shiny granola bar wrappers are woven into grid-like wall hangings, a little like god's-eyes or dream-catchers. One of the larger pieces in the show, "Corn Staff," is an orgy of brilliant hues from the world of merchandising: Stacks of folded corn chip bags have been packed into the purple mesh bags that once held bean thread noodles, and hung along the length of a tree branch.

By saving and recontextualizing food packages, Ebbinghouse interrupts a different sort of waste cycle. The creative energy corralled into marketing a product that is then disposed of immediately upon consumption, enjoys extended aesthetic shelf life in the artist's assemblages.

Making Art A Part Of Your Life

Just like processed foods in their eye-catching packages, Ebbinghouse's commentary on our culture of consumption is delivered in an appealing way. It's easy to connect with his art, since we have a quotidian relationship with the materials he uses, from candy wrappers to egg cartons to pull-tabs. To establish this connection using common materials is essential to David's philosophy of art-making.

"You have to have art be a part of your life, and not this specialty that just a few people know about," Ebbinghouse explained. "The way it works now, art is a specialty, like nuclear physics. If you don't know the jargon, you don't know what's going on. There is a problem with defining art or music as off in the corner of the culture, where it isn't important."

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