Local artist brings new life to found objects in 'Pieces of Dreams'

The exhibition, “Pieces of Dreams: The Art of Lorelei Esser,” features such works of found objects as the piece "Blue Man," starting Friday at the Thomas Center.

Courtesy of Lorelei Esser
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 11:22 a.m.

Walking through Lorelei Esser's array of three-dimensional artworks — some suspended from the ceiling, others seeming to climb from the ground — it can feel like flying.


'Pieces of Dreams: The Art of Lorelei Esser'

What: Exhibition of three-dimensional sculptures, mobiles and wall reliefs created by the artist from found objects
When: Opens Friday with a reception from 5:30 to 8 p.m.; continues through Jan. 4, 2014.
Where: Thomas Center Main Gallery, 302 NE Sixth Ave.
Cost: Free
Info: loreleiesser.com

“I think of it as some kind of asteroids that we're walking through,” she said. “Each is a little reminder of something that once was.”

Esser's pieces are made up almost entirely of found objects — what some would call junk. On Friday, dozens of these recycled sculptures will fill the Thomas Center's Main Gallery in the new exhibition, “Pieces of Dreams: The Art of Lorelei Esser.”

The exhibit, which will run through Jan. 4, kicks off with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday with Esser in attendance. The event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

Esser, a Florida native and University of Florida alumna, said she initially intended to collect natural objects for her art. However, while looking for new material, she said she would increasingly find manmade objects. This brought Esser to a revelation of sorts.

“When out in nature, you find debris left over from the human race: plastic, metal, paper,” she said. “It's just as much a part of the earth as anything else. It all came from the earth.”

By repurposing discarded items, Esser hopes to breathe new life into them.

“Everything I find has a certain energy to it, and everything in this exhibit is enhanced to bring out that energy,” she said.

One of the exhibit's pieces, “Queen of the World,” features a 2-foot-tall goddess figurine built into an old washing machine agitator. Coins, buttons, plastic cars and a host of other items flow from her skirt, while a maroon flower blooms from the top of her head.

“I'm making a statement, and a lot of it is about abundance,” she said. “A lot is that we are just in overkill with the material stuff that we have.”

The exhibit also will feature a series of pieces representing saints, but Esser said she is by no means Catholic.

“I'm not into an organized religion: my belief is a lot more open than that,” she said. “I believe all the things that we practice are the same.”

Esser suspects that some might be surprised or even put off by her art's unconventional forms and materials.

“They are gonna see something different, because this is not a show with two-dimensional paintings on a wall,” she said “A lot of these pieces are more or less alive.”

Russell Etling, cultural affairs interim manager for the city of Gainesville, said he invited Esser to exhibit her work after she was featured in a 2012 collaboration at the Thomas Center.

“Gainesville has a wealth of talented artists, and Lorelei is one of the best,” he said. “Her ability to take these discarded pieces and bring them back to life in a completely new form is a very special talent.”

While each of Esser's works in the exhibit are separate, Etling said the combined effect is a work of art in itself.

“It is as much an instillation as an exhibit,” he said. “It will give people the sense that they are walking into Lorelei's private world.”

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