reviews > COVID-19

If you were a paperclip, what would you look like? If you were an artist, trying to make work amidst a global pandemic that had led to the exhaustion of many reserves, among them financial, medical, emotional, and material, what would you make art out of? These two questions find their confluence in Oddballs, a charming series of ninety paperclip sculptures fashioned by Dan Nelson during the COVID-19 quarantine, after he’d run out of art materials but not, apparently, basic office supplies. Every little wire doodle has been meticulously photographed, allowing the viewer to enjoy Nelson’s dexterity with needle-nose pliers, not to mention his ad-hoc creativity and determination. Each also bears a given name common in Belgium around 1900 (e.g. Pjeroo, Ysewijn, Hurbine), and while that seems appropriate to those shapes that resemble stick figures and giant noses, about others I disagree. I recognized a Calder, a yoga mom, a figure of Italian Modernism, a sidewalk bike rack, a cowboy in a 10-gallon hat, and a rower, among others. If we diverge on what, or who, they all are, on this at least we can concur: necessity may be the mother of invention, but boredom and privation are close relatives.

—Lori Waxman 2020-10-05 9:48 AM