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Downtown artist installs paper geodes in unexpected locations

By Emily Chu
Published: Monday, July 09, 2012, at 09:23AM
geode Emily Chu

A close-up on geodes filling a hole in a brick wall.



Walking around Downtown L.A., it's easy to not notice the normal wear and tear of the urban environment: the cracks in the pavement, the chips in the bricks, the rusty pipes.

Downtown-based artist and graphic designer Paige Smith saw all of this natural deterioration and had an epiphany.

"I live Downtown, and I notice all of these holes and broken down buildings," she said, "It's about engaging with your surroundingsā€¦ somehow it just clicked that it should be geodes, like in nature."

The "it" Smith refers to is the project that she's dubbed "Urban Geode."

Smith cuts and folds small three-dimensional paper polyhedra (geometric shapes) from a library of formulas for making shapes and models.

"It's super mathematical and nerdy," she laughed.

These are then arranged into a sculpture that, from afar, might seem like a real geode, and places them in overlooked, unkept locations.

These paper geodes look organic and natural, but Smith makes the distinction that they're purposefully more mathematical and calculated, like the man-made buildings and locations where she installs them.

She said she looks for "broken down pipes that aren't working anymore, empty holes where bricks used to be, or broken away areas. Places that are pretty obviously abandoned."

Her art is also tiny -- and sometimes, it's difficult to find. She's placed geodes creeping out from the cracks between bricks and minuscule drain pipes; these are the geodes that are typically found by searching methodically or stumbling upon them accidentally.

"I always knew not everyone would notice them," said Smith. "It would take an astute person to see them, and they're temporary.

But Smith also takes requests from people who admire her work and want to see geodes in their own environments. She has one larger geode filling the inside of an empty telephone booth outside a bar where her friend works; this one is hard to ignore.

The balance between organic and manufactured, and temporary and permanent, is what Smith says she plays upon in her art.

She uses paper as her material, knowing that it will come apart naturally and she said she finds beauty in this process. Smith has also experimented with placing a plastic viewing screen over one of her geodes and is considering using more permanent material in the future, like resin.

Smith is still a graphic designer by day, and an artist by night, but Urban Geode has become bigger than she anticipated. She's just finished an installation at The Standard in Hollywood and even has fans from other countries who want geodes where they live.

Smith said she wants to explore and install geodes throughout L.A.,"but the farther west you go, the less holes there are," she said.

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