Walking into Pam Longobardi’s studio is like visiting the dump. Not because her artwork isn’t refined and beautiful—it is—but because she sources some of her materials from the plastic garbage patches that litter our oceans. In her sculptural works, Longobardi edits these materials into meditative arrangements, begging awareness from us of the destructive environmental effects of worldwide consumption. In its reference to a Piet Mondrian abstract painting, Ghosts of Consumption (for Piet M.) questions Mondrian’s decree that “the object must be eliminated from the picture”—suggesting instead that the object maintains its power precisely because of its ability to reference the world around us.
Longobardi’s paintings, too, function both as objects and as representations of other things. To make them, she carefully pours chemicals onto copper sheets, allowing the natural reactions to make the surfaces crackle, fizz, and change color. The resulting pictures look like landscapes of some remote world, and yet they are also documents of the chemical interactions that made them. Like her sculptures, Longobardi’s paintings ask you to look once and look again, closer this time. What can these images and objects tell us about our own impact on the world?