The World According to Federico Uribe

(First published in the May 31, 2018 issue of City Pages)

Ordinary objects become stunningly alive at the Woodson Art Museum



Federico Uribe’s installation is like a jungle created of found objects.

It’s said that art needs to be experienced in person. A photo doesn’t convey the same impact. That idea goes double for the sculptures of Federico Uribe, who uses common objects to create something wholly different. His work has been on display since June 2 in the Woodson Art Museum’s latest exhibit, The World According to Federico Uribe. This isn’t a typical exhibit. Uribe spent several days at the Woodson creating a site-specific installation—a landscape for his sculptures of flora and fauna.

A giraffe made of tiny pencils pops out of the wall; horses and zebras constructed of leather and wood straps look like they might gallop away; an armadillo made of bullets could scamper underfoot. It’s easy to forget the common objects that make these sculptures. And that’s his goal, Uribe says in an interview while at the museum. “I don’t want people to come and think, ‘Oh, what great technique,’ ” Uribe says. “What should happen is the objects disappear, and it becomes the object I am making.”

Uribe grew up in Bogota, Colombia. His career as an artist took him all over the world, and he has resided in Miami for the past 18 years. He spends hours in his studio, so absorbed in his work he often loses track of time. Uribe loves literature, and listens to audiobooks while he works. Some of his favorite authors: Salman Rushie, Umberto Eco, and Philip Roth. So it’s ironic that he considers books one of the most difficult objects to work with. In the still-in-progress installation, an examination of a tree reveals that it’s constructed of carefully cut and shaped books, including the pages and spines. “People make books out of trees, so I make trees out of books,” he says.

There’s no one way he creates his art; it depends on the situation. He likes working with bullets, and the incongruity of their destructive potential encapsulated in a beautiful shape hasn’t escaped his notice. The shoe company Puma once gave him a huge batch of shoes, and he once found a truckload of books for $100. Those objects have become animals and trees, respectively.

Uribe says there isn’t a “point” to his art—he doesn’t try to make social or political statements. But there is something to be said about someone creating beauty out of every day objects. 

The World According to Federico Uribe is on display thru Aug. 26 at the Woodson Art Museum in Wausau. Gallery hours: Tues.–Fri. 9 am–4 pm, Sat.–Sun. noon–5 pm; open until 7:30 the first Thursday of each month. Free admission. 715-845-7010.