Paula Crown’s Solo cups were scattered over Aspen Skiing Company mountains all winter long—in people’s pockets. That’s because five images of her exhibition Solo Together, featuring hundreds of crushed ceramic red painted cups, were chosen to decorate the season’s lift tickets and passes as part of the resort’s ongoing Art in Unexpected Places program. And now one giant cup has returned.
Together, Crown and SkiCo unveiled “Jokester” in late June, a 10-foot-tall sculptural installation in Gondola Plaza. “‘Jokester’ was chosen because it has a feel and landscape and topology that I thought would translate at a large scale,” she says. Crown gave each of the several hundred actual-size cups that make up Solo Together a name based on the personality of the person who theoretically could have been holding it. (The full exhibition is currently part of a larger show, The Architecture of Memory, at Studio Cannaregio in Venice, Italy.) But “Jokester” is only the second cup to be supersized as a piece of public art. “When I saw this painted at scale, I thought, ‘Whoa, this is cool.’ Then, ‘Whoa, this is plastic. This is big.’”
Social activism is integral to Crown’s work. The Chicago-based multimedia artist, who is part of the Crown family that owns SkiCo, has been shown in galleries and exhibitions around the world. Besides her Venice show, she is currently working with For Freedoms, a nonpartisan PAC aimed at creating discourse through art in all 50 states. “As artists, we contribute our art to prompt conversations,” she says.
Her New York installation with For Freedoms tackles social exclusivity and blackballing, and in the past, her pieces have addressed topics such as climate change. Though she says she doesn’t try to be “too didactic or obvious,” her work aims to engage. With the red Solo cups, for example, one might wonder who is going to clean this up? “That question is essential,” she says. “We can’t afford single-use plastic cups that aren’t easily compostable or recyclable.”
“Jokester” won’t stick around forever, coming down in the fall. But Crown hopes its impression and message lasts longer than that.