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TO JAN. 17

Folks wandering into the Corcoran’s Hemicycle Gallery expecting more Annie Liebovitz gyno-portraits are encountering something quite different: Richmond-based artist Tara Donovan has cut and plumped bundles of ultrafine white carpet fiber into an expansive cloud of fuzziness that looks like a repository of Peter Rabbit’s cottontails. Donovan’s Whorl, with its winding, compacted spiral, is a Robert Smithson earthwork minus the natural ingredients: The fiber, on loan from Allied Signal, has a fluorescent, blue-white sheen resembling nothing found in nature. But step back 10 feet and you entirely lose any sense of artifice: The individual strands of fiber dissolve into what looks like a tide of foam washing up beachside. Like Whorl, the artist’s past works transformed outsize quantities of everyday materials—toothpicks, roofing felt, rolls of adding machine paper—into the unexpected: natural formations, seemingly living organisms, topographic maps. And the 30-year-old Donovan’s past few years waiting tables and apprenticing with sculptor Kendall Buster have now paid off: The Corcoran College of Art and Design alum and Virginia Commonwealth University MFA just got picked to create a site-specific piece for the Whitney Biennial opening this March. In the meantime, the artist will dismantle her Corcoran work and return the fiber to Allied Signal for recycling—so don’t be surprised if a bit of Whorl turns up in your office’s new carpet. On view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Monday and Wednesday and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, to Monday, Jan. 17, at the Corcoran Museum of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $3 (suggested donation). (202) 639-1700. (Jessica Dawson)