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Sculpting Sandwiches

          Simply put, art is very subjective; there is no right or wrong way to interpret art, which is precisely what makes it so compelling and why getting access to art is important. On Sept. 24th, the Creative Arts Department invited local artist, Madison LaValle, to campus to discuss her artwork. LaValle, whose main discipline is sculpture, teaches several art classes at the University of Albany and has a show opening in Troy on the 29th. She has sold much of her work to collectors and will most likely participate in the prestigious Art Fair in 2019.
          LaValle opened up the discussion by describing her “weird relationship with tuna fish sandwiches.” The idea of a sandwich has always fascinated her. Whenever she thinks of one, she is transported back to her grandmother’s kitchen where the two of them would have exciting conversations over a simple sandwich. Sandwiches have also played a more insidious role in her life, and she discussed how many misogynists resort to demanding that powerful women, such as Hillary Clinton, go “back to the kitchen” and make them a sandwich. The idea that this sort of rhetoric is still commonplace in American society is troubling but, sadly not surprising when one evaluates the state of gender relations in America even now. It is for these reasons that much of LaValle’s work resembles sandwiches. She implied that she enjoys using sandwiches as models to reclaim them and fight back against cruel people who use them as tools to facilitate sexism. She also sees them as easy ways to tell stories of bonding and family.
          LaValle, more interested in drawing and painting at the time, was initially afraid of the idea of being a sculptor; she didn’t want to have to work with intimidating machines. Because of this, she began to sculpt with other household objects, such as linoleum, drywall, wood, popcorn ceiling paint, carpet underlay and insulation. LaValle specializes in making smaller sculptures that resemble sandwiches. Much of her work combines soft and hard materials and she gives enticing names to her pieces, including “Side Jam,” “Green Goddess” and “Pool Party.” Recently, she has started adding fake plants and leaves to her artwork to illustrate a false identification with nature, one that she believes most people have. She also likes using “underrated” materials that people don’t typically see, like carpet underlay. LaValle believes that by using this underrated but important material, she is able to demonstrate the status of women in society; like the underlay, women work hard and are crucial to the success of the majority, but are sometimes rendered invisible.
         Madison LaValle takes a very feminist approach to art. She is able to sculpt fascinating pieces that look interesting and challenge traditional views concerning gender. Even if one isn’t particularly interested in the issues that she engages, it’s still possible to find meaning in the pieces and make a different interpretation, as is common with any good artwork.