Remains, Site Specific Installation (with Hannah March Sanders); Woodcut on repurposed fabric, crochet, appliqué stitching, cardboard and other packing detritus; approx. 10′ x 32′; 2017

Remains is a long-term, site specific installation housed in the Murphy Fine Arts Center at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. The project, which will be on display in the Rotunda Gallery at SHC for the next year, was proposed to Orange Barrel Industries by Associate Professor Wanda Sullivan after she found our work online. Students from Wanda’s 2-D Design, Painting, and Drawing classes helped organize raw materials, rend and glue cardboard into strata, and clean up the prodigious mess left over from the install (all remnants were recycled). While in the space we spoke with these groups about our collaborative process and managing our career and family life. After the piece was completed we gave a presentation on Thursday, September 21st to students and faculty at SHC. On Friday, September 22nd, we gave lectures to Printmaking and Professional Practices courses at the University of South Alabama, also in Mobile.

Spring Hill College September 2017_Smaller

The installation is composed of woodcut, crochet, and packing material assemblage elements. Human’s long-term impact on the planet underpins every aspect of the work; it shows that long after humanity is gone, evidence of our insatiable consumption and destruction will remain. A giant toddler, a portrait of our son Levee, plays at the surface, tearing at the landscape as construction equipment continue to scrape, dig, and dump, scarring their surroundings. These elements point to our shared innate, immature drive toward short-term satisfaction and chaos which in turn leads to pollution and environmental degradation. The packing materials at once resemble the compression and deposits of landfills, and the strata of soil and stone that create the record of the Earth’s natural history.

The crochet elements contain old clothes, linens, and printed proofs on fabric from previous projects. The process acts as a metaphor; the stitches represent our linked and interwoven history with friends, family, and the community at large.

The preponderance of the detritus and packing materials came from the art department at University of South Alabama. Friend and printmaking faculty at South, Matt Hopson-Walker, was asked to save packaging from deliveries to the department over many months. The result was a large storage closet filled with a massive stack of boxes, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam, more than enough material for our purposes. This treasure trove of trash became the raw material for the “strata” which comprised the bulk of the installation.

Since we had little idea of the amount and variety of materials that would be available when we arrived to Mobile, much of the installation was ultimately improvised. Components were hung deliberately, responding to the color and texture of surrounding elements, to serve the overall composition and gestalt of the piece. The result is a crowded and compressed work that should seem both awesome and overwhelming, on aesthetic and conceptual levels, as the audience considers our shared ecological impact.

Previous examples in this body of work have focused on how our family has been complicit in sapping natural resources and consuming energy. Remains forces us to reckon with our career’s impact on the environment as well. The strata are composed primarily of materials used to ship artworks and art supplies, highlighting the unconsidered consequences of making artwork at all. Faced with this dilemma, it is easy to fixate on the hypocrisy and lose sight of the potential for change. Levee acting as protagonist in this work illustrates our hope for the future as we nurture the next generation of more mindful residents of our fragile planet.

Below is a gallery of images that demonstrates the development of the installation and its components. For me the project began with a series of woodcuts of construction equipment and a roughly double life-size Levee portrait block. The first handful of images illustrates the process of creating those blocks and the subsequent prints that were featured in the Remains exhibition.