It’s February and a lot of families are experiencing cabin fever and the winter doldrums. And the Montclair Art Museum has a cure! The new ANIMALIA exhibit at the Montclair Art Museum is an immersion into a world of color, texture, and wonder. Artist Federico Uribe has created an awe-inspiring installation of provocative imagery and exuberant delight. Visitors, especially the youngest museumgoers, will love the immersive feeling of the scenes as they explore each section filled with animals and their habitats. Many sculptures are placed throughout the room, accessible and exposed, as the artist wanted. Many visitors have already expressed a desire to return multiple times to take it all in.

The entryway to ANIMALIA hosts “After the Flood,” a full wall installation of jumbled people and animals in various floating poses. An effective first glance of what is in store, the 3-D mural looks like it is made of beads or ceramics, but it soon it becomes clear that found and gathered objects are meticulously assembled to create hands and tails and faces and sleek bodies of tigers, snakes, and various quadrupeds. Close observers will find bullet shells, batteries, reshaped plastic bottles, and more. And that is just the beginning.

Scores of flora and fauna are included in ANIMALIA. Airborne fowl made of sports shoes, fluffy sheep with reclaimed phone cords as wool, animals built from carefully cut pencils, a jungle scene created from upcycled clothing, fish created from snow shoes and crutches, and a partially submerged hippo shaped from keyboard keys will send children (and probably their caregivers) scampering from one end of the exhibit to the other with joy. Connections to animal life, the environment, and how our garbage affects all of Earth’s life will be easy to make on many levels.

The tour de force in ANIMALIA is also the installation with the clearest environmental message: Plastic Coral Reef. At once beautiful and haunting, the plasticware and discarded medication containers made into gorgeous ocean flowers and the schools of fish created from plastic bottles, some with logos clearly visible, will draw in visitors as an unwitting contributor to the scene. As Federico Uribe explains, “There are…ugly memories related to these objects, and I am trying to [make] people find beauty in pain.” The artist allows observers to draw their own connections amid the pencil sharpeners, makeup containers, electrical cords, and water bottles. Truly, the Plastic Coral Reef is beauty in self-awareness.

With this installation as well as animal and environment-based activities for children like origami and animal rubbings and a reading den on the 3rd floor, families will be planning their return visits during their time at the museum. Visit early and often!

Federico Uribe’s ANIMALIA is open through June 21, 2020 at the Montclair Art Museum. Considering a Montclair Art Museum membership? Use code BARISTA15 to receive 15% off a Family Membership that includes admission, discounts, preview invitations, and free access to weekly drop-in studios.