Lana Shuttleworth’s landscapes created from traffic cone shards reveal the struggle between nature and consumption
Lana Shuttleworth is hard at work, cutting up traffic safety cones in her cavernous Springfield studio. The old warehouse on East Liberty Street was built in the late 1920s and for many years housed the Southern Hardware and Bicycle Company. Today, Dianne Reeves’ jazzy That Day is playing on some unseen device, lending a rhythmic and sassy vibe to a free-flowing creative space that is filled with what look like enormous landscape paintings.
Shuttleworth looks up from her work, brandishing a razor knife. “They are not paintings … they are wall constructions,” she says. She points to a fourteen-foot-wide panel on the wall, depicting an exquisite grove of dark trees with white cherry blossoms, mysterious and tactile. “That is made of more than ten thousand shards of safety cones nailed onto birch plywood with a pneumatic nail gun. Every piece is carved by hand and pieced together like a mosaic.” When asked about the delicate circular blossoms, she smiles and answers, “Those are created by gouging white traffic cones with a drill press.”
Such is the strange and astonishing artwork of Shuttleworth. It is art that requires explanation. In her review in The Huffington Post, author Priscilla Frank describes it well:
For over 20 years Shuttleworth has been playing with the potential of a plastic cone beyond directing traffic. And her playful yet arresting work makes us realize their potential as well … Her tranquil scenes of Klimt-inspired parks and Japanese-inspired cherry blossoms evoke a humanless, pure natural state. Yet the mosaics of found objects show plastics are often buried deep in our natural and cultural landscapes, even if we do not notice them. Shuttleworth creates an interesting but not incongruous relationship between nature and consumption, asking where found and recycled objects fit into this spectrum.
Shuttleworth is exhibiting work at the Beaches Museum & History Park from February 9 through June 3. Entitled Nature Reconstructed, the show reflects this emphasis on the recycling process and toys, beautifully, with the irony of using plastic to depict landscapes. “To create a nature scene out of a material that would otherwise degrade nature is quite satisfying,” she says. “I see my art as a metaphor for the creation of beauty out of something that is inherently harmful.”
Shuttleworth grew up in Jacksonville, attending South Jacksonville Presbyterian, Assumption, and Bishop Kenny High School. Her college career included false starts at Louisiana State University and the University of Florida, before settling into the Business School at Florida State University. She needed some credits, so she took an art class. It changed her life. She almost instantly became an art addict and has never been able to kick the habit. Under the inspiring tutelage of FSU’s art faculty — including well-known artists such as Ed Love, Charles Hook, Mark Messersmith, and Jimmy Roche — Shuttleworth knew she was destined to make a niche for herself in the art world.
But why traffic cones?
In a case of ingenuity born of necessity, she explains that as a print-making student with limited means, she had the idea to use cast-off traffic cones, which are “umm … inexpensive,” for carving into instead of purchasing linoleum blocks to use. “The first time I picked one up, I realized it had the same material make-up and that I could use the same tools,” she says. “After utilizing the cone material for a while as a printing block, I realized how easy it was to carve due to its malleability and pliability, so I began to think of the multiple uses and other possibilities for this medium.”
Enamored with the linear qualities of German Expressionism, she was excited by the lines she could carve in the cone material. She also discovered that the interior of the cone is usually a lighter hue than the outer surface, so carving into it produced two colors. “This tonal change had really spectacular possibilities,” she says. “So I moved from using safety cones as a printing surface to making them become the actual artistic medium.”
By Arbus staff