Installation Art and Social Media: A Review of Crystal Wagner’s “Traverse”

By Olivia Anzalone

This October, Burlington City Arts (BCA) in Burlington, Vermont was host to multidisciplinary artist Crystal Wagner’s exhibit Traverse. Wagner’s works transform organic and biomorphic designs into prints, sculptures, and sprawling installations that feature bright colors and organic forms. Creating both 2D and 3D works, Wagner emphasizes bold neon hues that form intricate circular patterns suggestive of the natural world. She implements a hybrid approach to printmaking and sculpture in her incorporation of recycled consumer materials such as disposable tablecloths in order to create expansive and voluminous textural pieces. Wagner transformed BCA’s first-floor gallery into a gigantic site-specific installation that grows from floor to ceiling and across the building’s exterior facade. Traverse is her first exhibition to simultaneously incorporate both interior and exterior space within one work.

This vivid, multi-colored sprawl is exactly what entices viewers to enter BCA as they walk the Burlington streets. Wagner’s use of color implores the viewer to pay attention to her work. Wagner’s naturalistic piece winds throughout the gallery, inviting viewers to crawl through holes in the piece, revealing different colors and patterns. The structure’s bumpy texture is ridiculously tempting to touch, thus Wagner created a sample area of the material that viewers able to feel freely. Every part of this installation is designed with the viewer in mind; from vibrant color to interactivity, this exhibit is made to entice and captivate. In today’s art world, installations are a staple in gallery settings due to the desire of some viewers to post “Instagram-worthy” art experiences on social media. With the aesthetically interesting and an art-adventure elements of her work, Wagner plays into an Instagram-obsessed generation to deliver a political message. The installation is specifically designed for the viewer, so the meaning behind the piece doesn’t feel force-fed.

A playful journey at first glance, Wagner’s use of recycled plastic confronts the viewer with realities of excessive waste. The sheer size and presence of plastic within the gallery space overwhelms and surrounds the viewer with the material, calling attention to the problem of consumer waste while simultaneously presenting a solution with the re-purposing of these materials. The artist’s solution makes caring for the planet and being a conscious consumer “fun” with her use of recycled materials in this playful installation. The organic form of the installation is reminiscent of cell shapes or patterns on a butterfly wing. The juxtaposition of natural elements with man made material waste further emphasizes the impact of human waste on the environment. Traverse appeals to an audience apt to experience attractive, social-media ready pieces and with them presents an environmental issue present in our society.

While this exhibition is no longer on show, it goes to emphasize the bustling art scene present in Burlington, at BCA and within the greater Burlington community. Burlington is home to two Universities (University of Vermont and Champlain College), each with a vibrant artistic presence. The city itself is extremely lively and a perfect weekend trip for Montreal students to experience the artistic scene just across the border.

Using Format