2020 PFIG Recipient Mia Villani

Jessica Meyers

Journal Entry #1

This summer I am working as an intern with Charlottesville artist Amanda Nelsen to create a large-scale art installation. The installation addresses the effect of single-use plastics on Climate Change and society’s complicated relationship with the plastic we use in our everyday lives. The project is made entirely of soft single-use plastics like potato chip bags, plastic grocery bags, and other packaging. The plastic is then rolled up to create circular “buns” (similar in shape to a hockey puck) and will be used like colored pixels in the final piece.

Initially the project was planned to bring together the community to create the piece. We were able to create many “buns” working with students at UVA and in the Charlottesville area before the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, Amanda and I are working to collect, count, and sort the buns made by the community. We are creating and work-shopping the final design of the piece, and we will work for the rest of the summer assembling the piece.

Amanda and I meet 1-2 times a week via Zoom to check up on our work. We utilize spreadsheets on Google Sheets to keep track of our “bun” inventory. We are also using other online applications to work on creating the final design. I’m learning so much about the logistics needed  to create a large-scale art installation. Although it will be difficult to create this piece during the pandemic, we are implementing creative solutions to collaborate safely and effectively.

Journal Entry #2

I continue to work closely with the head artist of the project, Amanda Nelsen. We meet twice a week via Zoom to discuss our respective work on the project. I think we are both grappling with the enormity of the project, both in physical scale and labor, especially in the wake of the pandemic. What once began as a community art project is now left to two artists. That said, I think Amanda and I are very excited by the progress we have made.

Amanda and I were able to meet up in Charlottesville a few weeks ago (socially distanced) to work on the project. We were able to bring together the “buns” we each respectively had (about 2000 in total) and finally got a sense of the entirety of the material we were working with. Our goal is to create a large blanket-like sheet made up of the buns. To do this, we need to sew together the individual buns with thread. The day we met in Charlottesville, Amanda and I worked to figure out the best way to sew together the buns. This ended up being a workshop in problem-solving and design-thinking, as we created many models and iterations of how to sew the buns together.

Now that we’ve finalized the sewing technique, we can start putting together the final art installation. We hope to create sewing packages with buns, thread, and instructions to send to friends, family, and community members who would like to help us with the project. As a Studio Art major, I am learning how much planning, coordination, and problem-solving it takes to create a large art-installation. Before this project, I have predominantly worked individually on my own art, with art classes encouraging only periodical collaboration through critiques. In great contrast, every aspect of this art installation is collaborative. Though we have been physically distanced, this community-centered piece is able to connect everyone who has had a hand in making it.

Journal Entry #3

This summer, I worked as an intern for Charlottesville artist Amanda Nelsen to create a large scale art installation. Made entirely of single-use plastic, the installation aims to highlight the waste we create with the consumption of these products. Amanda and I are still working to finalize the installation, sewing together the “buns” of plastic. The enormity of the project still looms over our small, two-person team. Though, I believe we have made it to the final stages of the piece.

Amanda houses all the buns in her home studio, where she has laid out the design of the piece. We are sewing together the design in chunks, 10x10 bun pieces, that will eventually be attached together to form a large blanket-like circle. We meet periodically in person to hand off sections of the piece, as I am doing the majority of the sewing at my home. The final piece will be an estimated 50 square feet in total. The size of the piece is daunting yet exciting and is able to make a striking impact on its viewers. The rolled up pieces of plastic, in their array of colors, are surprisingly beautiful. Each bun elicits curiosity on its own, but once placed within a sea of nearly 2000 buns, the piece is truly impactful. The materiality of the piece is ambiguous from afar, but up close, one is able to explore the variety of plastics that are so ubiquitous in our lives.

Working on this piece for such an extended period of time has allowed me to grapple with complexities of the material that I am working with. This is an experience in art-making that I haven’t yet dealt with. Working with such a large volume of plastic everyday can be overwhelming, and it is sobering to realize that this is only a small fraction of plastic that is consumed everyday. This internship has provided me with many art-making skills as well as allowing me the unique opportunity to create a large-scale installation. The project has also pushed me to think about the effects of my own consumerism that will have an impact on my life for many years to come.