Chiao and Frezza — both longtime houseplant junkies — especially love how the act of making the faux plants is a kind of metaphor for growing real ones. “You start with the base, a root system for it to stand,” says Chiao. “Then you have to build a skeleton or armature for things to go on. You have meat that fills it in. You have a surface coat.” Adds Frezza: “You start to feel like a gardener. So sculpture as gardener I guess is one of the big attractions to continuing that process.”

Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza, Art and Design Duo

PHOTOS BY MIKE VORRASI

Partners in both life and work, Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza share a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where they run an art practice together as well as a design company called Chiaozza. Yet the first two things they ever collaborated on belonged to neither of those disciplines: One was a stew they made for dinner soon after they began dating — which took so long to cook that joking about it inspired their eventual website name, eternitystew.com — and the other was the pancakes they made the next morning. “We were fascinated by their topography, so we took some printmaking ink, inked up a pancake, and started making monoprints with them,” Frezza recalls. “That was when it began, this idea of turning our everyday life and domestic play into some kind of product or work.” Two and a half years later, it’s still the motivation underlying many of their colorful projects, which they characterize as existing at the “intersection of imagination and the natural world.”

Their ongoing series of papier-maché plant forms, for example, began when Chiao, trained as an architect (Frezza studied fine art and sculpture), was constructing a foam model of a treehouse one night and wanted to populate it with miniature foliage. “When Adam came home, I had a feeling that he would know exactly what to do,” she says. “I didn’t even have to say anything. He got out pieces of paper and starting painting them, and then we stayed up all night making these tiny little plants and photographing them.” The results fueled not only a residency at the Wave Hill botanical garden in the Bronx — where the couple rebuilt the treehouse and its imaginary vegetation at full-scale — but also a forthcoming video animation project, as well as the collection of faux houseplants the pair will make available for sale for the first time ever at this weekend’s Sight Unseen OFFSITE show. Their rainbow rock cairn sculptures and Chiaozza wall mirrors in endless geometric iterations share an equal sense of whimsy and experimentation.

To be sure, though, the couple’s process isn’t just play for play’s sake; they both went to great lengths to commit their lives as fully as possible to their creative endeavors. A large part of why they formed Chiaozza and Eternity Stew in the first place, says Chiao, is because “both of us were frustrated with our respective disciplines.” Chiao in particular — she went to architecture school at Columbia and worked for OMA and 2×4 before she decided to follow her instinct of exploring environments from a more art-based standpoint. Frezza, on the other hand, pursued painting and drawing for years before giving in to a natural drift towards three dimensions, and building things with his hands. They met somewhere in the middle, sharing their individual practices with each other because they figured, says Frezza, “this is going to be way more fun if we do it together.”