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 Tara Donovan  (1970 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: natural phenomena installation-every day materials

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
An installation artist who uses common materials such as toothpicks, tar paper, drinking straws and paper plates to achieve the effect of natural phenomena, Tara Donovan describes herself as "fascinated with creating chaos out of something and then restructuring it and giving it new order."  She says her goal is to transcend her materials so that "what they are made from is not initially apparent."  She begins by creating a small-scale version of the work she envisions, and then works with studio assistants to make the final installation that can take up to six-hundred hours.

Many of her works are large-scale from a single material in "massive quantity" such as her entry in the 2000 Whitney Biennial---a miniature mountain range' composed of electrical wire.

Tara Donovan was born in Queens, New York and was raised in Rockland County, New York, where she loved changing shapes she saw in landscape.  She did undergraduate work at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC, and did much landscape paintings of rural scenes.  However, an assignment her junior year to create 80 works within two weeks out of every possible kind of material changed her direction to her current focus of using basic materials to create the illusion of being something else.

She received her M.F.A. in sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond where she had a garage studio.  In 2000, she moved to New York City, and was awarded a free studio space in Tribeca by the Sharpe Art Foundation, whose jury to select recipients included famed drawing portraitist, Chuck Close.   He has subsequently helped further her career and describes her work as transcending "their physical reality in a way that seldom happens in sculpture."

To earn money, she was a waitress at the Savoy restaurant in SoHo.  Within three years, she had created a Minimalist Cube out of over a half-million toothpicks and a mountain from drinking straws in undulating shape that, placed a long a forty-four foot long wall at Rice University in Houston, gave the impression of being a huge fog formation.

In 2003, a prominent New York gallery gave Donovan space for seven large-scale installations, and this was career-changing in that she received much positive critical acclaim and opened the door to many subsequent exhibitions.

Tara Donovan was awarded the inaugural Calder Prize given by the Calder Foundation  in 2005. 

Sources include:
Hilarie M. Sheets, 'Turning Straws Into Clouds', ARTnews, December 2005, pp. 128-131.

Art in America, December 2005

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