What a wonderful world

Federico Uribe creates an unforgettable, delightful landscape at the Woodson Art Museum


The first thing you see when you walk into The World According to Federico Uribe exhibit at the Woodson Art Museum is a shiny ostrich sticking its long neck into the floor… its head and face emerge several inches later. It’s playful, fun, and sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Take a closer look, and you’ll see it’s not an ordinary sculpture, but one formed from hundreds, maybe thousands of bullets and shotgun shells that have been cut, painted and transformed into the feathery details and texture of the huge bird.

Everywhere your eyes roam reveals wonders in this installation by Columbia-born, Miami-based artist Federico Uribe, who creates colorful, exuberant animal and natural environment sculptures from every day objects.

It’s not just the large showcase sculptures that evoke such an extraordinary sense of wonder in this exhibit; it’s also thanks to the site-specific immersive installation Uribe has created. Jungle backgrounds and art dangling from the ceiling fill each of the four gallery spaces: a sun, birds above, a zebra herd relief mural, and more.

It’s an over-the-top art experience, in all the best ways you couldn’t even imagine.

And then you take in individual pieces themselves. Uribe often repurposes items associated with a particular use into beautiful, playful pieces that are unpredictable and sometimes contrary to the raw material. These every day objects, such as colored pencils, wine corks, zip ties, piano keys and shoelaces, have been transformed, but not so much that they’re unrecognizable—you can still read the printing on the shotgun shells, the titles on the book spines and see the Puma logo on the shoes. But it may take you a moment to realize the sheep’s wool is made from scissors and that the cactus is constructed from piano keys.

You’ll see fake fingernails glued to the eraser ends of pencils, creating bees emerging from a chicken-wire hive. Paintbrush handles become fish, shoelaces form the rays of a sun, and a construction hat becomes a turtle shell. While your eyes immediately jump to the large-scale installations and sculptures—some life-size or taking up an entire wall—don’t forget to look up and see birds made from books, handles and shoes dangling from the ceiling.

Most of the artworks are three-dimensional, like the giraffe busting out of a wall or the free standing full-size leather-crafted horse sculpture. But some are flat relief sculptures, integral to the landscape, such as the large face of an elephant made from bullets, zebras made from tires, or men’s neckties quilted and formed into a nature scene.

There’s also some irony in the materials Uribe uses in his art. He turns books into trees, leather into animals, horseshoes into horse hooves—all unexpected juxtapositions. It’s fascinating to see symbols of violence such as bullets turned into an exotic animal, and wheelchairs and crutches transformed into a bicycle.

See The World According to Federico Uribe thru Aug. 26. Gallery hours Tues.–Fri. 9 am–4 pm, Sat.–Sun. noon–5 pm; open until 7:30 on first Thursday of each month. Free admission. 715-845-7010, lywam.org.