Ariel Wood leverages plumbing into an aesthetic and artistic endeavor that interrogates the social and material realities of our lives.
Plumbing and drainage are banal and mysterious aspects of our built infrastructure: a network of hollow cylinders—mostly hidden from human eyes—that transport water, waste, and other fluids between locations. Important? Yes. But commonplace and forgotten until they malfunction.
Austin-based artist Ariel Wood (who uses they/them pronouns) leverages plumbing into an aesthetic and artistic endeavor that interrogates the social and material realities of our lives. “This system of infrastructure is physical [as well as] political,” the artist says. The “mix of physical materiality and sociopolitical pressures gives plumbing an implicit set of relationships” that Wood can “manipulate, emphasize, and transgress.” Indeed, plumbing serves as both a literal and metaphoric access point for contemporary society’s most pressing cultural and environmental issues.
Wood’s mixed-media sculptures—constructed primarily of ceramic, metal, wood, silicone, and paper—explore ideas of connectedness through the aesthetic and rhetorical gestures related to plumbing. So too does their use of materials. “I see the connection point between materials as a space for tenderness and reciprocity,” they say, “one in which I seek to show a mutual recognition of responsibility and contingency.” Moreover, mixing disparate media fosters a liminal space that acts as a “celebration of queerness” and the dissolution of rigid/normative identities.
Not only are the materials Wood uses emblematic of the underlying concepts they seek to promote, but so do the relationships between individual components of their artworks. For instance, the artist mentions that the “stands” displaying their objects are “as much the focus of the work as the piece/object it holds.” In highlighting elements that traditionally serve as tools for presentation, Wood questions “which element is ‘doing the work’—whose labor is prioritized.” This conceptual and material reconsideration challenges received notions of value that late-late-capitalism instills within our consciousness and mythologizes as natural.
Born in California and living in Texas, Ariel Wood received an MFA in sculpture from the University of Texas at Austin. They have exhibited their work nationally and internationally in Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, New York, and Florence, Italy.