Editor’s Pick: The Tape Artist

Using empty boxes and masking tape, artist Sarah Anne DiNardo crafts beautiful and ornate sculptures

Every week on this blog we will feature one video that Smithsonian.com selects as an “Editors’ Pick.” In the weeks since the contest launched, we’ve already been blown away by the high quality of the submissions. Note: these videos are not selected by the contest judges and have no bearing on the final result of the contest.

The featured videos are meant to inspire and encourage.

We all have our vices. Some people go out and drink. Some people root for the Red Sox. For artist Sarah Anne DiNardo, her vice is rolling tape. Ever since she was young, DiNardo has been fascinated by stickers—Chiquita banana stickers to be exact. The resistance of pulling your fingers off of something sticky was unlike anything else for DiNardo and has led to a new artform.

Using empty boxes and masking tape, the Brighton, Massachusetts, resident crafts beautiful and ornate sculptures that resemble everything from barnacles on a boat to entire cities. I recently spoke with DiNardo to find out more about tape rolling and the video that told her story.

Tell me about the video. How did it come to be?

I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember. I’m really good friends with Dana Saint, one of the partners of Gnarly Bay Productions, Inc., and I thought he was one of the most talented people I had ever met. I’m a huge fan of him and his company. When it came time to really take a professional step forward with what I was doing with my art, he was the first person that came to mind. As you can see with my work, it’s not something that you can see and understand everything about it. I really felt as if a video would be an appropriate tool to describe in full who I am and what I do and why.

What was the filming like?

The guys showed up to my house the night before and we sat down and had a nice dinner and talked about the agenda for the next day. We mapped out hourly what we wanted to accomplish and where and what we wanted to shoot. The next day we started at about 7 a.m. and shot until probably 11 p.m. It was a full day of shooting. As soon as it was done, it was about a week turnaround to edit and put that amazing video together.

Once you discovered your love of tape, how long did it take to figure out how to turn it into art?

It’s been a long evolution. In the video you can see there’s a specific shot where I’m holding a black frame with very little tape roll . That was actually my very first tape sculpture. Over the years I have really learned so much about the material and the chemicals I use to protect the pieces. It’s a constant evolution, it’s a constant learning process and I finally have found my favorite type of tape so that’s exciting. I think I’ve tried every type of tape that exists. I’m really excited about the color and the texture. I just find the medium to be limitless.

You mention in the video that people see cities or even planks of wood in your sculptures. What do you think they look like? What do you see when you look at a finished piece?

It’s more of a representation of a piece of time for me. Not necessarily a literal trigger of something. It’s more of a very peaceful period of time and I can look at each piece and remember where I found the box and how excited I got about it and what was happening in my life at the time when I was working on it. Similar to a ceramicist, I kind of view each tape sculpture kind of like a test tile and each one is something that teaches me a little bit more about myself and also my process.

Do you have plans to take your tape art and do something else with it?

When this evolves I want to go large. I want to go really big scale. I want to do hotel lobbies. I want to do custom installation work. I really feel as if there could be a huge market for that. I’m having conversations now with interior designers about doing some hotel lobbies so I think that will be a really great step forward.

The video is absolutely beautiful. What do you like about it?

I think the thing I like most about it is the person who created it really knew who I am. When we were kind of spitballing about how we wanted to go about doing the video, I didn’t want it to be a promotional tool or anything cheesy or in your face. I wanted it to be an artist perspective of another artist. I feel like that is what was achieved. Not only visually but also content wise.

The speed and types of shots are stereotypical of Gnarly Bays’ style. They almost have a warmth and charm to all of their stuff that they do. They were very open to talking back and forth with me before we started shooting. We talked about ideas and some ideas we didn’t use and other ideas we thought of in the moment. It was a very open dialogue, which I really appreciated.

How did you achieve the meditation shot in the video?

That was one of the funniest parts of the entire thing. Dana pitched the idea to me and I thought it was going to look so cheesy. The whole video, other than the antique store, was shot in my tiny apartment. We were looking for something for me to sit on top of and the only thing we could find was my metal trash can. So I somehow managed to balance my body on top of this trashcan that I insisted on disinfecting before I sat on and somehow within their process they achieved the look.

Feeling inspired? Head over to our submission page and upload your video for a chance to win our grand prize.

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