In his personal work, Aris Georgiades explores issues as diverse as male identity, labor economics and the landscape created in our post-industrial economy. Gail Simpson is focused on the conflict between the natural and built environment, using found or on-site materials for much of her work. Under the name Actual Size Artworks, they collaborate on a wide range of public art projects, creating human-scale sculptures that enhance and highlight the context for the works in public spaces such as libraries, a baseball stadium, an outdoor nature trail, a streetcar stop or a fire station. These social spaces allow the artists to touch a diverse range of residents and visitors, bringing complex artistic ideas to non-arts audiences.
There is a playful political dimension to most of the artist’s projects. Windsocks in the shape of pointing fingers shift direction based on the invisible wind; a giant piggy bank built like the Trojan Horse suggests the perils of the banking system; giant signs in languages of the community create a visual cacophony while celebrating the diversity of our immigrant country. Their interactive works, in particular, allow for public interaction and prolonged contemplation, which creates a moment of calm in our frenetic modern world.
For Sculpture Milwaukee, Actual Size Artworks present Magical Thinking, a life-size up-turned top hat, part of any magician’s repertoire of tricks. A magician’s patter misdirects the audiences’ attention away from the sleight-of-hand, allowing the magician to do any number of fantastical plays involving animals, cards or scarves. Actual Size Artworks’ piece takes on a more ominous tone because the bunny inside the hat is glowering at the world around her. Is the bunny angry because of the misdirection and sleight-of-hand happening in our political climate?
This cheeky work reminds us that Bugs Bunny, that über cartoon sophisticate, uses adult humor in his child-oriented shenanigans. Just like Bugs, Actual Size Artworks cloaks their pointed meanings within the envelope of family-friendly cheer.
Gail Simpson was born in Chicago in 1956 and currently lives and works in Stoughton, Wisconsin. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Simpson currently teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Georgiades was born in Pittsburgh in 1955 and currently lives and works in Stoughton, Wisconsin. He received his BFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a professor of Art/Sculpture at the University of Wisconsin Madison.