Stefanie Nagorka, Do-It-Yourself Sculptor

Artist Makes Her Studio in the Aisles of Home Depot Stores

Artist Stefanie Nagorka at a Home Depot in Landsdowne, Maryland.

hide captionStefanie Nagorka outside a Home Depot in Landsdowne, Maryland.

NPR, Susan Stone
Stefanie Nagorka tops off a sculpture.

hide captionNagorka completing work on a sculpture at the Home Depot in Landsdowne, Maryland.

NPR, Susan Stone
Stefanie Nagorka's sculpture 'Landsdowne, Maryland 2003'

hide captionThe finished product.

NPR, Susan Stone

Building supply stores have launched an untold number of do-it-yourself projects. Stefanie Nagorka's mission is more ambitious than most — and definitely more artistic.

The New Jersey-based sculptor has been working largely in concrete for the past three years, starting with cinderblocks. And she knows just where to find the materials she needs: Home Depot.

Her plan — already well under way — is to build sculptures in Home Depots in 50 states, using the basic supplies she finds in the stores. The idea emerged after she lost her New York studio space a year and a half ago.

The sculptures usually have a short lifespan, since Nagorka generally goes to work in the aisles without prior permission from store officials. Part of her artistic vision, she says, is to challenge the homogenized look and feel giant chains have brought to the American landscape.

"I'm sort of subverting that reality," Nagorka tells NPR's Susan Stone, during a trip to a Home Depot outside Baltimore. "And understanding that's it's really up to the individual and what they do with the materials. Everything doesn't have to look the same."

Since Home Depot staff members sometimes ask Nagorka to take her sculpture apart when she's finished, they live on in photographs — if she's even allowed to take those. Some stores also frown on her picture taking, which company policy forbids.

Stone says Nagorka takes some of her inspiration from environmental sculptors — like Robert Smithson, whose work Spiral Jetty changed the landscape near the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and Andy Goldsworthy, recent subject of the documentary film Rivers and Tides.

Goldsworthy works in natural materials that soon return to their natural environment, and Nagorka's pieces have a similar fate. Her building blocks wind up back on Home Depot's shelves, awaiting use in other projects. Perhaps even your own.

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