In the artist’s hands, common, mass-produced items—toothpicks, buttons, drinking straws—become captivating sculptures.

For over a decade, American sculptor Tara Donovan has transformed huge volumes of everyday items into stunning works of phenomenal impact. Layered, piled, or clustered with an almost viral repetition, these products assume forms that both evoke natural systems and seem to defy the laws of nature.

Tara Donovan gathers 16 works from the past decade and will premiere a new installation commissioned by the ICA. The artist’s first major museum survey, the exhibition examines her distinctive sculptural process—exploring how a single action applied to a single material countless times can transcend our expectations.

Nebulous, appearing like a mist over the floor, is made of nothing more than strips of Scotch® tape. Bluffs, nearly five-foot-high forms that suggest mountain peaks or stalagmites, are actually teetering stacks of plastic buttons. Creating astonishing visual experiences, the artist’s work invites closer looking and bigger thinking about the everyday materials that surround us.

Just two weeks before the opening of her first museum survey, Tara Donovan is named a 2008 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant