From the Roman Empire to Easter Island, history is rife with societal collapse—and with the unavoidable truth that environmental destruction and resource depletion can contribute to that collapse. Scientists assert that our environmental damage to our own, global civilization is quickly approaching a “point of no return.” If that point is reached, Miami is expected to be among the first U.S. cities to suffer inhabitability as a result.
Carrie Sieh’s solo exhibition Low Roads offers a nuanced and thoughtful approach of this divisive topic. In graphite, collage, and embroidery, Sieh’s work is both visually compelling and conceptually rich. As is usual for this artist, it is also heavily researched. With symbolic materials, subtle visual cues, and a cipher or two, the artist deftly twists together threads of technology and fear; progress and politics; economics and exploitation. As if from the fever dream of a future archaeologist, Sieh gives us an interpretation of our civilization as if it had become ancient history.
Sieh’s empty Miami cityscapes (distinguished in title only as Site 5, Site 6, etc.) are dominated by dramatic graphite skies, and subtly given shape with cut and collaged artifacts. The candy wrappers, security envelopes, and plastic packaging implicate a culture of dispassionate consumption in our fate, while dark, recycled felt forms of foliage seem frozen in the act of overtaking our manmade structures. Embroidered details within each scene seem suggestive of human warmth and labor, or maybe hint at an individual experience lost to time.
Sieh carries these techniques to other, dissimilar works, such as a painted wood plank meticulously collaged, embroidered, and drawn. Resembling geologic strata, these tactile layers place us somewhere in the middle of a vast timeline, already covered up by eons of natural phenomena.
Ultimately, Low Roads engages us with a prognosis at once bleak and hopeful. And it begs the question:Will we take the high road or the low road?
Bernice Steinbaum, Director