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One Man’s Trash: Assemblage Art and the Act of Reclaiming

I have been hard at work preparing for my thesis exhibition.  The Reception will be Friday April 19th in Cincinnati.  Save the date!  Details here:  MFALaunch.com

Wood, random parts and wheels

Wood, random parts and wheels

My show is now essentially two parts, digital and physical, which is fitting since that has been my conceptual focus.  Initially I imagined the exhibition would consist entirely of a digital projection.  However, I was inspired recently to create two functional sculptural elements for the space, one a projector stand (more of an assemblage tower) and the other a desk which will house the computer and mouse.

I spent last weekend digging a lot of things out of roadside piles of trash and trashcans at DAAP.  But some of my best finds were at One Man’s Trash Inc. where I was fortunate to get a “just lock up when you’re done” from a gruff but generous man.  One Man’s Trash specializes in clean-outs of attics and cellars, etc., so I was able to find many very strange, old weathered wooden items in their yard including a beautiful dresser and what looks like an old mining cart.  Essentially, I am bringing some rustic, Hi-desert aesthetic into the otherwise boring, clean white cube space of the gallery.  Below are some in progress images of the work in progress.  For the real deal please come to the exhibition!  (I will also post installation shots after it’s up)

I always appreciated sculptures and functional items that included recycled bits of material that would otherwise end up in a land fill.  This is not a new idea of course.  So-called American folk-artists have been creating some amazing works in this vein for centuries (Noah Purifoy, for one).  The popularization of the now trendy term and concept “reclaimed” is reflected in internet sites such as Craigslist, Etsy, Pinterest (for the aesthetics not action) and the “Rise of the Sharing Economy” more generally.

For me the word reclaimed evokes notions of community, recycling, and creativity.  The act of creation is essentially claiming–acquiring or claiming materials and then stamping, signing, declaring the new form as one’s own.  But while supposedly more original processes such as painting and sculpture are often thought of as the creation of “original works of art”, the notion of re-claiming gives a deserved nod to the universe at work.  Someone manufactures paint tubes and canvas.  We claim the wood from trees for paint brushes.  Trees create more trees.  Pigments were formed in the stars, eons ago.  Everything that is made is made through materials and tools that are acquired through sale, theft, or some other method of claimed ownership.  Reclaiming is a concept that at once reflects our human needs to take and to give.

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백합호 (The Fleur-de-Lis)

Jio Bae and I decided to call the ship 백합호, The Fleur-de-Lis. The strange plastic Fleur-de-Lis we found at the river became the centerpiece of the boat, attached to the top of the stern. Since the symbol is rich with history and meaning (wikipedia it), it seemed well-suited for our humble cross-cultural collaboration. Between Jio’s interest in symbolic representations of nomadism and travel, and my interest in mystery and fantasy, we think the boat suits our personalities. It straddles the line between eastern and western boat archetypes, and is also a good representation of the ratio between “natural” and “unnatural” objects (pollution) lying on the shore of the Ohio river near Cincinnati. The color palette is also delightfully (and accidentally) similar to that of my recent paintings, predominantly brown and neutral with small splashes of synthetic color. enjoy.

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Driftwood and Plastic

Yesterday I went to the Ohio River with Jio Bae, an artist from Korea, to collect wood to make a small boat out of only objects from the shore. We collected lots of wood, both man-molded and river-molded, as well as random trash and bits of who knows what and took it all back to my studio to play with.  Results coming soon.

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