Struck by Eight

By Ikon Youth Programme member Moudie Nyamadzawo

Polly Apfelbaum’s work definitely caught me by surprise. Born in Pennsylvania and living in New York, Polly’s installations have clearly made a mark, not only in her country of origin but in many other international destinations. Her large-scale and colourful installations comprise of textiles, ceramics and drawings. I personally had never seen any of her work in person; it always was the quick picture on Google or the reference in an art catalogue but never the front row seat to experiencing such vibrant work. For me, viewing an artist’s work is an opportunity to read their inner thoughts and feelings.


Walking into Polly’s ‘mind’ was no dull experience. The first thing that catches your eye is this massive wall of eight colours. Before looking around the floor itself, one appreciates the different strips of colour with words written on each. Each colour dared not to contradict its written meaning. Take red for example, symbolising Life, “the blood that runs through my veins is red and it is that blood that gives me life”, one individual said to me as we stood in front of this majestic flag. Around the room were two isolated strips of orange and yellow. Polly stated that she chose these colours to express their abstract meanings of healing and sunshine. This combination of orange and yellow created a look of a horizon in that space, and on that horizon were ceramic pieces that are much more playful. The contrast between order and disorder fit perfectly in one space.

On the second floor, in all its delicate beauty, was a circular installation made up of hundreds of artificial flowers. It had no radical change in colour like the floor below, but was made of concentric circles of precisely placed flowers repeated over and over in . While I gazed at each little flower, the soft sound of clicking caught my attention. In the corner of the room was an entrance to a smaller room and in that room was a slide show. Each slide being of a different installation of delicate flowers. For me, the experience was similar to seeing photographs of Polly’s work on social media, except here you are invited to view the ‘original’ as well.

I could find all the different words to make my description more intellectual but no word is better than the original – ‘beautiful’. It might be a bit dramatic for me to say but it genuinely took my breath away. I felt like a little girl all over again. I felt like running through the room and making static waves like a carefree five-year-old, but due to the crowd around me I had to settle with a subtle smile.

Polly’s colourful installation Waiting for the UFO’s (a space set between a landscape and a bunch of flowers) is available to view until 18 November.

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