Critique of Ellie Garza’s “Splinters”
Garza’s work is a tall, delicate, but prickly looking columnar structure made of toothpicks. The base sits on a stool, and is composed of several aggregations of toothpicks, with asterisk-like forms. The structure is about 2.5 yards high, from the top of the stool to the light fixture from which it is hanging. The toothpicks have been pieced together with glue and clear string. The structure is bulky at the base and gradually becomes thinner with fewer toothpicks in the middle, and then a length of about 8 inches with no toothpicks, only clear string. Then, the structure again becomes gradually thicker, and another mass of toothpicks is seen at the top, in the general form of an asterisk.
Several principles of design can be seen in Garza’s work that make it a successful piece. To begin, the general gradation of toothpick quantity from dense to sparse and back to dense produces a linear perspective and adds interest and movement to the work. Furthermore, balance is created by the opposite positioning of two toothpick masses at the bottom and top of the structure, as well as the sparse pieces in between. This may be compared to a seesaw with weights on either end, connected by a thin stick. The profuse use of toothpicks creates repetition in the work, with respect to shape and 3-D form – countless lines are created by the toothpicks’ simple linear shape, and 3-D asterisk-like forms are created by the fusion of toothpicks from all directions with a common center. Contrast is also found in the work through the positioning of the toothpick masses. The conglomerations of toothpicks at the base and peak of the structure appear to be opposing each other. Still, harmony and unity are created by the dispersed piecing together of toothpicks in the middle half of the structure. That is, this thin middle piece seems to connect the two dense pieces at the top and bottom, unifying the structure as one. Counter-intuitively enough, the base of the structure may well be the focal point of the work. The assemblage of toothpicks is greatest here, and it demands attention with its sharp points, which give the work a prickly texture and feeling.
Garza intended to explore the concept of transgression, which may be defined as the violation of a law, command, or moral code. Inspired by an image of iron filaments reacting to two magnets, the artist desired to capture a moment in time when the filaments were in mid-movement through space. That said, Garza’s work might portray transgression of time and gravity. Time is transgressed because the work attempts to freeze time, by representing a single moment when magnetic filaments are moving through space. Furthermore, the law of gravity is transgressed because the toothpicks (representing magnetic filaments), hung by clear string and glue, appear to be floating in space. This violation of gravity is taken farther by the great visual weight of the structure, especially apparent in the two masses of toothpicks at the base and crown of the work.