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Prima Materia, or the first matter, in alchemy and in medieval science is the primary, raw starting material— “the primitive formless base of all matter, similar to chaos” required for the creation of the philosopher’s stone. Nineteenth century author Mary Anne Atwood describe the role of prima materia, as a material that is elevated through art. She writes, “there abides in nature a certain pure matter, which, being discovered and brought by art to perfection, converts to itself proportionally all imperfect bodies that it touches.”

This collaborative exhibition installed in two galleries (the Projects gallery and A.I.R. space), created by former artist in resident Colour Maisch and Gary Vlasic, examines the alchemical concept of elevating broken, discarded objects to infuse them with new and elevated meaning. Drawing on forgotten artifacts and conjuring the memories such objects hold, Prima Materia, explores notions of deterioration, transformation, regeneration, and the perceived value of base materials. The exhibition draws on alchemy as a metaphor, which embraces imperfection and impermanence as inherit in the process of transformation. Utilizing found objects made of a variety of materials such as plaster, steel, wood, rubber, stacked foam, salt, and graphite, the artists seek to illustrate how context can impact perception of materials, and how the gallery itself performs a type of alchemy of elevation.

Prima Materia also functions as a commentary on the interplay of art and its environmental impact. By finding discarded objects and repurposing them as refined works of art, Maisch and Vlasic expose wastefulness and the fallacies of materialism, questioning a collective tendency to cast aside old, flawed materials that may still hold intrinsic beauty and purpose, ultimately blurring the fine line between light and dark, and beauty and repulsion.

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