Susan Beiner is concerned that "artificial" has replaced "authentic" in society - from genetically altered foods to mass manufacturing.
"I think it started because of Styrofoam and plastics," says Beiner, an assistant professor of art at Arizona State University. "I love handmade dishes, but they barely exist anymore."
When she was an artist in residence at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, Beiner received a grant to devise "Synthetic Reality," an installation that would be her response in ceramic form.
Then, as it happens in life, plans changed: She took the ASU job in fall 2006. But that didn't mean the end of "Synthetic Reality," it just meant changing the work along with the venue.
Originally conceived to take up a small, bedroom-sized area, Beiner had to adjust to the larger space of ASU's Ceramic Research Center.
"I started as soon as I got here," she says. "This is the biggest thing I've ever made."
The main part of the exhibit is an "encrusted wall" of materials like Plexiglass and foam meant to resemble a patch of organic plant life with grass and flowers springing forward. These items are in contrast to the hard ceramic construction of the piece; what should be soft and familiar becomes jarring and less recognizable.
"A manufactured sensibility is coming out of something organic," Beiner explains. "This whole wall is a living organism."
The wall also is juxtaposed with unfamiliar objects that appear almost alien in nature. Basically, there's a lot going on, and a lot to look at. And that's only part of the exhibit - Beiner also created floor pieces that she dubs "controlled environments," which look not unlike flowers arising from the ground. The exhibit took more than a week to install.
Though there is an "issue" behind the exhibit, Beiner isn't overly concerned that people understand her motivation upon viewing "Synthetic Reality."
"It's overwhelming," she says. "I'm hoping people see it as a beautiful thing."
Beiner is already thinking about her next piece, which she says should be a departure from "Synthetic Reality."
"Stuff in my brain is changed a lot," she says, adding that she's thinking of working extensively with rubber.
There is some level of constancy to her work, though: "All of my work has always been influenced by environment."