Mary Ellen Croteau: Endless Columns

April 4 – June 29, 2014
Dickson Window Art Project Space

Endless Columns by Mary Ellen Croteau, 2010 – 2014, Assemblage - plastic bottle caps

Mary Ellen Croteau's Artist Statement:
Several years ago, I began collecting plastic bottle caps, whose colors are so vivid and beautiful, but they are rarely recycled. I started making towers of them, which I titled “Endless Columns” after Constantin Brancusi’s iconic work, as a comment on the endless amount of plastic waste we each contribute to the environment. When the small caps got stuck in one another, they reminded me of artist Chuck Close’s circles of paint, and so I decided to do a large self-portrait using only bottle caps. The piece is titled “CLOSE”. No paint was used. Color variance was achieved solely through nesting different colors in one another. Approximately 7,000 caps were used.

I continue to work with the plastic caps, asking people to collect them for me. This is an integral part of the work, as it helps people quantify their own contributions to the waste stream.

Individual plastic drink bottles are the worst of the worst, and should be assiduously avoided. I urge everyone to rethink their reliance on plastic drink bottles, which are an enormous strain on our environment, both because plastic is made from petroleum (aka “oil”) and because it doesn’t biodegrade, but breaks into smaller and smaller pieces which then get ingested by birds and animals and will continue to pollute for centuries.

Chicago artist, Mary Ellen Croteau received her BFA from University of Illinois at Chicago in 1990 and her MFA from Rutgers University in 1998. She has lectured and exhibited internationally. Her art has won numerous awards, and it has been reviewed and reproduced extensively. Croteau’s work has gone viral on the internet and the work has been featured in publications as varied as Avianca Airlines magazine, a French children’s science magazine, Canada’s Discovery Channel, and most recently in a book from Phaidon Press entitled “Wild Art”.

Since 2003, Croteau has run a window gallery in Chicago. Folks passing by can see work by international and national contemporary artists who use a wide variety of media. You can find out more at

For more information about the art exhibitions at Waubonsee Community College, contact Cecilia Vargas, Art Coordinator, at (630) 466-7900, ext. 2964.


Art Department:

Art Coordinator:
Cecilia Vargas, Von Ohlen Hall 209
(630) 466-7900 ext. 2964

Art Lab Assistant:
Esther Espino, Von Ohlen Hall 240
(630) 466-7900 ext. 5742