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Inflatable art creates larger-than-life presence at BU’s 808 Gallery


With its columns, polished checkered floors and ornate wall decorations, BU’s 808 Gallery has become a host to a wide diversity of art pieces. A group of colorful, inflatable sculptures have recently filled the space, making the gallery their new temporary home.

“(((CRZ.F.4NRS.AAK)))” includes 30 inflatables and 30 small, paper pieces, some of which feature plastic and ceramic sculptures. The show opens on Friday and will run until Dec. 3 with an opening reception on Oct. 14 from 3-5 p.m.

Scottish artist Claire Ashley is the creator of these larger-than-life objects that can make even the tallest viewer feel small in their presence. Ashley’s exhibition at the gallery is titled “(((CRZ.F.4NRS.AAK)))”  and translates to “Crazy Female Foreigners Alive and Kicking,” alluding to Ashley’s identity as a Scottish immigrant and global politics.

“I’ve been thinking about the limitations of global movement, especially with Trump’s DACA limitations,” she said. “I’m from Scotland and I’ve been here for many years but sometimes I’m concerned about my papers when leaving and entering the country. The idea that the inflatables are odd bodies in space is a cultural and sculptural reference.”

Ashley started working with inflatable objects about 10 years ago, she said. Working in such a large space has given her the freedom to create monumental, abstract paintings that can be easily stored and transported to various spaces, she added.

Using inflatables has also allowed her to bend the rules and perceptions of traditional painting.

Ashley said she seeks to challenge assumptions on form, boundaries and perception within her work. The scale and colors she works with are meant to comment on traditional art history but also the contemporary art world.

“As long as I’ve been a painter I’ve been searching for ways to make paintings without using flat surfaces or straight edges,” she said. “I’ve been exploring the expanded field of painting. The inflatables are actually canvas coated with pvc plastic. I use it as a surface to paint on, but they can also be blown up and used as sculptures.”

This is the first time 808 Gallery has featured inflatable art, said Josh Buckno, managing director of BU Art Galleries, but he said he believes that filling up the expansive space will create an immersive environment for visitors of the exhibit.


Buckno said the gallery initially planned to do a group show of inflatable objects but after doing some research, they discovered Ashely and invited her to do a solo show in the space instead.

“The objects are sculptural, painterly and performative. They reference the body, they reference physical scale,” Buckno said. “There’s some humor in them but also many deep thoughts. One of the thoughts is how we have these expansive, soft sculptures within this historic building.”

Rhoda Yun, a junior in BU’s College of Communication, who saw a glimpse of the show from outside of Gallery 808 was struck by the scale and overwhelming feeling of the installation.

“Instead of taking steps closer to observe the details, you have to take a few steps back. It’s almost as if the art is observing you,” said Yun. “Her work is well aware of what it is and what it stands for. It’s not trying to be beautiful or subdued. It’s trying to be real.”

Ashley sees her objects as a perfect way to think about bodies. She described her sculptures as portraits of herself and her three children because of the “crazy energy and vigor” imbedded within her sculptural forms.

She said she draws inspiration from cartoons, abstract expressionist paintings and landscapes, and she thinks about how her sculptural forms stack together to look like rock formations within gallery spaces.

Abstract artist Claire Ashley exhibits “(((CRZ.F.4NRS.AAK)))” at Boston University’s 808 Gallery from this Friday to Dec. 3. PHOTO BY SYDNEY MAES/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“The idea of ecstaticism is something I’ve always been interested in,” Ashley said. “I want everything to be over the top. I want my work to take up a lot of visual space, physical space and color field space. Since I knew the gallery was going to be a giant space I wanted it to feel full and brimming over.”

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