Friday night, I walked off Arch Street into Space 1026 and felt almost as if I were entering a birthday party – a crowd of exuberant people, bright and happy voices, and the omnipresent smell of birthday cake. The event was in fact the opening of Jay Hardman’s Unsustainable.

The exhibition features ten pieces from the artist, including photography, the most intriguing perhaps being “Michigan” – a scaled model of a construction site, several feet long, and fashioned predominantly from cake and frosting. The cake is carved into a striking simulation of the messy, ripped-up topography of a construction site with miniature details, such as fencing, added for context. A contractor in the construction industry, Hardman draws from this experience, but says his exploration really began with the concept of a piece of paper being a plane for creation, which led to an interest in how cake tops were used as surfaces for creating artwork. The earliest cake piece in the show, “Justin Loves Fire Trucks,” from 2005, is a small, round cake topped with tiny red fire trucks. This early sculpture is endearing and gently amusing, a contrast to the more serious “Michigan,” which presents a snapshot of seeming destruction.

However, Hardman does not see “Michigan” as being a negative statement, but a neutral one. He views construction as a natural cycle of replacing old with new.

“When things get old, they need to be fixed or it’s time to start over,” Hardman says. “It’s an organic process.”

Rather than viewing buildings as sterile or disconnected from human experience, he hopes in his work to “personify buildings and dwellings as significant extensions of the body.” What happens tangibly in a neighborhood also happens socially; there is a parallel cycle of decay and renewal.

In addition to his cake sculptures, Hardman creates sculptures in the miniature using craft supplies and real construction site materials. He believes that the different mediums he uses create “different points of entry for different people.” Some people respond more strongly to the use of cake, others connect to the miniature scaled objects.

If either or both of these methods peak your interest, don’t miss Jay Hardman’s unique and provocative Unsustainable, through January 28 at Space 1026.

Chris Macan

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