Invisible systems, underlying structures, and silent processes make life possible. These mechanisms also make life work smoothly. They are constantly and tirelessly in motion; quiet, hidden, and powerful when all is running well and tumultuous, chaotic, and painful when there is an anomaly or glitch.
One of these invisible systems at work in our bodies is called apoptosis. Apoptosis is programmed cell death that makes way for new growth to occur. One example of apoptosis is during the early stages of fetal development the hand is akin to a paw. As the fetus matures, cells die to allow the fingers to be freed and separated from the main hand mass. In a sense, apoptosis is a most generous death. The nature of this cycle has inspired the conceptual framework for making our installation, and, ultimately, for naming the work.
While creating the thousands of ceramic, metal, and paper components for the installation, many pieces broke coming out of a mold or cracked during the kiln-firing process and much more. Instead of discarding the broken pieces, we reincorporated them into new objects in the spirit of apoptosis. We also kept in mind that when apoptosis is not countered by new growth, cells morph and proliferate in unhealthy ways to create genetic anomalies and cancers.
At the heart of the installation is a dialogue between beauty and grotesquerie, order and chaos, growth and death, gravity and levity. For some viewers, the installation conjures up notions of natural disasters (notably, hurricane Katrina and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan) and underwater worlds littered with detritus from ship wrecks. For one young man, he said it echoed what was happening inside of his body; he was in the midst of undergoing treatment for cancer.
Another system at work in the installation relates to ideas about energy, light, and the power grid. The functional elements of utility poles, insulators, cables, and connective hardware knitted together to form a matrix of energy transport has an odd aesthetic appeal to which we were drawn. We were interested in juxtaposing symbols of energy with internal processes of energy. Moving energy from place to place is as amazing as the way neurotransmitters send electrical messages from cell to cell. Similar to apoptosis, when all is running smoothly, we take the energy grid for granted, and when there is a disruption, we are made keenly aware of the complexity and fragility of the system.
The cacophony of sculptural forms, industrial hardware, and lights that cascade down the thirty-foot slanted wall coupled with the sheer volume, mass, and density of the objects create a place and time to meander. Apoptosis connects biological membranes with intertwining industrial lines, awaking a sense of the energies within and around us.

-Katie Caron and Martha Russo, September 2010

Kyle, MacMillan, Clay goes out on a limb with DAM’s “Overthrown” Exhibit

Dr. Karen Jocobs, Apoptosis: Martha Russo and Katie Caron, pending publications

Eric Isaac, Untitled Art Show

New York Times, Promising Exhibition
Denver Post, DAM exhibit will break mold of clay
Denver Post, Clay Without Limits, slide show
Ceramics Now: online, Overthrown clay without limits feature Denver Art Museum
Illiterate Magazine: online, Denver Art Museum gets down and dirty
9 News, Denver
Fox 31 News Coverage