Chris Natrop

size variable | watercolor on hand cut paper, string, video projections, living sculptures, irrigation system | 2015
Collaborative site-specific installation with Gregory Klassen 

We are our own mysteries. Is there a greater conundrum than the nature of life itself? What is it? How did it start? Where did it come from?

Of all of the things we’ve been able to collectively cross off the list when it comes to human knowledge, including theories about the origins of the universe, we still have painfully poor answers to these fundamental questions.

An installation by artists Greg Klassen and Chris Natrop in a Bay View warehouse, a seasonal gallery called Usable Space, isolates the questions and inspires a sense of wonder, too.
Natrop created a jungle of vines and organic forms that spill from the ceiling, that visitors step through and around. Pretty and clearly artificial, they’re made from bright white cut paper, some of which grab the light and flatten it.

These forms capture video projected into the space, subtle images of screens and water condensation on glass. Shadows in the shapes of the creeping plants are cast across the room. Klassen created a series of living sculptures, amalgams of organic material and man-made implements. They are fed, literally, with a series of clear tubes that reach like spider’s legs around the room. A pump from a fish tank somewhere out of sight makes this overhead system, which appears to contain a few tablespoons of water, breathe. This results in the delivery of droplets to Klassen’s little bundles of life. Little green shoots have exploded where the water has landed, and the smell of dirt is activated in the room.

Like a toy ant farm with its real and from-a-kit unreality, the artists created a contained ecosystem that speaks to both the insistence and fragility of life. I walked out the door, looking at my feet, at nothing, really, and weedy growths pushing through asphalt caught my eye, as did the dripping roof.

Life was quietly, suddenly everywhere.

— Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s art and architecture critic