SQUISHED at Eckerd College

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Izzy Pav’s SQUISHED recently on view at Eckerd College exhibited sculptures and paintings to convey how overwhelming daily life can feel.

Pav bedazzled banal readymades like small toys, tires and a highchair by covering them with yellow-painted insulation foam and glitter. The sparkly, scrambled-egg-like substance appears to metastasize throughout the gallery both in the artworks and on the gallery floor.

Orb 2024

The centerpiece of the exhibition was a cancerous-looking yellow orb hanging from the ceiling at eye-level. It could swing in all directions, and its surface was bumpy and unpleasant.

Pav’s artist statement says, “In my nightmares, when someone meets a gruesome death, their body bleeds a yolky and sulfuric yellow rather than the dark red of blood.” The use of the yellow substance served to signify the obtrusive world, along with all its socio-economic expectations and obligations, and how it affects our collective mentality.

Untitled – yellow foam with chicken wire, 2024

“I think that we are squished monetarily,” says Pav. “A consequence of this is a loss of time, quality of life and freedom, at the hands of a consistent, generational, hierarchical group of the one-percent. Also, we are only human, and I feel squished by human and social inabilities. I think this is best explained by the limitations of language.”

Izzy Pav

Pav is from Egypt, and moved around a lot before attending Eckerd College. Her experience of always reinventing herself comes through in the exhibition. “SQUISHED is a perspective on the pressure to find a place, or a routine, through which one can fit into the world, and how being stagnant can lead to decay,” she writes.

SQUISHED is about desperately trying to cling to an identity we once had that may not fit into the context of our lives today.”

Big Painting 2024

The concept of reinventing one’s identity comes through with the large painting titled, Big Painting (2024) which brings together orange netting — the kind that serves as temporary barriers for construction sites — with childhood toys that look like they came from Happy Meals, topped off with mold-green spray paint.

Big Painting (Detail) 2024

Pav’s signature yellow substance grows through the netting in some areas of the piece, and adhered to its surface are figurines, miniature cars, and plastic dinosaurs that recall a nostalgia for the simpler years.

It recontextualizes these childhood artifacts to form a perspective that emphasizes their manipulative capacity and their commercially driven role in preying upon the most vulnerable.

“I use materials that are highly commercialized such as children’s toys and products, and construction materials – and even the colors are some of the most commercialized colors,” says Pav. “Bright yellow, red, orange, neons — they are used to draw people in. So, why not use this to my advantage in my art?

“The use of these things is a little personal commentary on how artists must adapt to the capitalist and commercial climate of the world if they want to escape the starving artist syndrome.”

Squished 2024

Pav’s artwork isn’t heavy-handed. It’s almost the exact opposite. She approaches her artwork with a sense of humor that’s much more palpable than most serious artistic practices. For example, the eponymous Squished (2024), which has a mascot-looking, stuffed-animal head laying on the gallery floor under four tires that make it look like it’s been run over by a car, includes springy, cartoon-like eyes bulging out of its sockets and a tongue that sticks out in a Looney Tunes way.

(Untitled Squished Bug) 2024

There are even cut-outs of bugs stuck to the gallery windows as if it were a windshield after a road trip. “I would call my work kitschy, strange, and fun,” says Pav. “I am not a perfectionist — I am, but I won’t let myself be because I don’t want to feel anything negative about my work before it’s finished.

“The comedy of the work comes from pulling back from my piece and telling myself that I should be having fun and being creative, not taking anything too seriously.”

Window 2024

Like Robert Rauschenberg, Pav resourcefully creates magic from materials others might discard. For the painting titled, Window (2024), Pav uses cardboard, a set of plastic window blinds, sky-blue paint and yellow-painted spray foam to create a scene where a toxic cloud appears to be making its way into the room.

Like a painting from the Renaissance, where the canvas itself acts as a transparent window through which its representations exist, the sky-blue paint behind the plastic blinds of Window creates a trompe-l’oeil that is virtually indiscernible from the real thing. What’s scary about it is that the bubbling yellow substance effectively becomes a cloud signaling chemical warfare and breathing pollution.

Babychair 2024

“I think about different symbols, and what kind of meaning and representation I would like using with the materials I have,” says Pav. “Then, I brainstorm how to physically accomplish the task, and visualize the processes with input from others.

“Each time I make something, it is a learning process for me – to learn the capabilities of a medium, and how to convey the right message with the materials at hand.”

With such an eclectic exhibition, it’s clear that Pav draws inspiration from many sources. “Oftentimes inspiration comes from reading and learning,” she says. “My artistic inspirations are David Hockney’s ‘joiners’ for his dissection of matter and the way our eyes track an image.

Kent Monkman inspires some of the miniature photography I do.  Matthew Barney has helped me with visualizing the capabilities of a material. And Ryan Trecartin’s films inspire me with his absurdist and post-internet outlook.”

Chimney 2024

Pav’s creative credo perfectly summarizes the themes of SQUISHED. As she says, “Creativity resides in a part of us that seeks out transformation and representation, and it can be stressful.” With everything pulling us in every direction every day, it’s easy to lose sight of, and become desensitized to, how squished we are for our time and our resources.

For artists like Pav, art becomes a renewable resource that serves to combat the polluted, overly commercialized world.





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