Kate Casanova’s Vivarium Americana was parked among the nomadic structures at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Station to Station stop.
Minnesota-based artist Kate Casanova uses repurposed furniture and her own body to create uncanny, dreamlike works. With Mushroom Chairs (2011-2013), she took ordinary thrift store pieces and reupholstered them with spore-laden straw so that various fungi burst through the fabric and grew out of the seats. Raising the stakes in 2013, she created Vivarium Americana, in which an AMC Pacer is overtaken by oyster mushrooms. These pieces hint at decay and inevitability of entropy: One day everything, including the viewer, will be overtaken by similar fungus.
With Ornament (2011), Casanova’s own body becomes the site of the infestation. Comprised of a silent video of the artist’s head seen from behind, Ornament reveals a group of live hermit crabs exploring the terrain of Casanova’s elaborately braided hair. As the creatures flex their claws and climb about, the viewers’ sense of unease grows. That Casanova has no reaction whatsoever to these creepy crawlies’ movements makes the work that much creepier to behold.
“I’m always looking for new ways to look at both nature and beauty,” Casanova told an interviewer in 2012. “I think that our ideas of nature and beauty are constructed and very intertwined.”