Combining forms: Polly Apfelbaum’s ‘Fallen Paintings’

Billings resident Trista Henry takes in “Mini Hollywood,” a display of Polly Apfelbaum’s work at the Yellowstone Art Museum, which opened on April 1.

Instead of hanging on the wall, contemporary artist Polly Apfelbaum’s creations are displayed on the floor. Like painting or sculpture, Apfelbaum’s work relies heavily on color, texture and form, yet her textile pieces are created from materials formed into abstract shapes to create what she has termed “fallen paintings.”

“I’m a person who is between paining and sculpture,” Apfelbaum said in a recent interview while in Billings setting up her latest artistic endeavor. Termed “Mini Hollywood,” the art display opened April 1 at the Yellowstone Art Museum.

Since a showing of her assemblage art in 1986 in New York, where Apfelbaum calls home, she’s been working as an artist and exhibiting her work internationally. Crushed velvet, crepe paper, felt, bed sheets and safety pins are some of the materials Apfelbaum has used in her work. For the Billings instillation, she selected sequined fabrics commonly used in the fashion industry.

A close-up of the fabric Poly Apfelbaum uses reveals sequins shimmering in the gallery lights.

These fabrics, laid on the floor like carpeting, sprawl from the corners of three galleries on the YAM’s first floor. Yet the material, like wet slabs of colorful paint, embodies a high sheen. The work is playful; the colors create holographic rainbow hues across the gallery and float from the ground to the ceiling, creating a multi-layered effect that fills the spaces.

“I want people to feel the color,” Apfelbaum said. “When you look at a painting on the wall, that’s one thing, but when you have to walk through, colors start moving and shifting, and that for me is really wonderful. Every minute it’s a different thing.”

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