Aspen Mays, ‘Pyrite Suns, Miner’s Dollars’

installation view
installation view

Pyrite Suns, Miner’s Dollars,
Artist:
Aspen Mays

at The Pitch Project
706 S. 5th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53204
June 12 – Sept. 12, 2015

Aspen Mays installation in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Museum
Aspen Mays installation in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Museum

Pyrite Suns, Miner’s Dollars,  a site-specific installation by artistAspen Mays, is presented in collaboration with the collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum (MPM) and the Yerkes Observatoryin William’s Bay, WI. Representation and facsimile play in this installation of 300+ photographs and artifacts that interweave Mays’ ideas and meditations on the sun, fool’s gold and value.

Pyrite suns, also known as miner’s dollars or sun dollars, are found only in coal mines where the pressure of coal formation has flattened the pyrite into coin-like disks, most commonly mistaken for gold. A pyrite sun, named for the radial symmetry of its shape, appears to have beams growing outward from its center, which Mays likens to a drawing of the sun. Miner’s dollars were originally thought to have significant monetary value, but now are valued only for their beauty and their relative scarcity. They remain a fascination for Mays; “I love the thought of a sun that is found buried in the earth, in the blackness of a coal mine.” Pyrite Suns, conflates the study and images of a false sun with those of the “real” one.

Some work in the exhibition is culled from Mays’ private collection of over 100 of these mineral specimens from a coal mine in Illinois; pyrite specimens from the Museum’s geology collections, exhibition design molds and security footage on loan from MPM added another layer about observation and artifice; and images of the sun from the Yerkes Observatory archive were all used for Mays’ installation at The Pitch Project. Over the course of the exhibition Mays also installed a pop up display in MPM’s planetarium that explored the rare experience of the solar eclipse.

Aspen Mays installation in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Museum
Aspen Mays installation in collaboration with Milwaukee Public Museum
Aspen Mays installation included a tower viewer with custom minted tokens
Aspen Mays installation included a tower viewer with custom minted tokens

About the Artist

Aspen Mays (born 1980) was raised in Charleston, SC. She received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2009 and a BA in Anthropology and Spanish from The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2004. Aspen uses her investigation on light, gravity, nature and astronomy to drive her works. Her solo exhibitions include Every leaf on a tree at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Sun Ruins at Golden Gallery, New York; and Ships that Pass in the Night at the Center for Ongoing Projects and Research (COR&P) in Columbus, OH. Mays was a 2009-2010 Fulbright Fellow in Santiago, Chile, where she spent time with astrophysicists using the world’s most advanced telescopes to look at the sky. Mays lives and works in Los Angeles, CA and Columbus, OH where she is an Assistant Professor of Art at Ohio State University.

Press

Something Like the Sun, Shepherd Express, June 16, 2015

Aspen Mays’ ‘Pyrite Suns, Miner’s Dollars’ press release, Urban Milwaukee, May 28, 2015

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