Sarah Buchanan on Jack Henry’s Art in Work Sites

Blog Post by: Sarah Buchanan, Stamp Gallery Staff, Class of 2013, Art History

Upon first viewing Stamp Gallery’s Work Sites, I found myself captivated by the exhibition. As stated in my prior blog post about Pat McGowan’s work in our previous exhibition, I love the idea of bringing to light found, abandoned, everyday objects that are incorporated into our everyday landscape, but often looked over, to create art. We pass dilapidated billboards, abandoned parking lots, decaying houses, forgotten construction sites, and out of place roadside memorials everyday, yet few of us pay these discarded materials mind. Each artist in Work Sites is inspired by such commonplace items, and presents this inspiration in their art in different ways.

In my personal opinion, Jack Henry truly exemplifies this notion of transforming the abandoned and forgotten into art. Henry’s three untitled pieces and two core samples exhibited in the show all demonstrate his strong interest in the decayed, and the character and sense of chance that accompanies the process. I view chance as a predominant theme in Henry’s works in both his physical process and in the conceptions underlying his art. Before creating his sculptures, Henry collects various discarded materials found in our everyday modern landscape, often stumbling upon discarded roadside materials over the course of his daily life. He does not plan what materials will be incorporated into his works, but instead includes what he finds and re-appropriates them. Besides the role of chance in finding materials to construct his pieces, the process of creating his actual “core samples” is one dictated by the unintended. He pours resin layer by layer into a wooden mold, leaving him unable to plan precisely what will be the final form of his piece.  This random assemblage of found objects through a method that leaves little room for direct control leaves the resulting work as a surprise, not only to the viewers but also to the artist himself.

This literal sense of chance demonstrated in Henry’s work helps to emphasize the deeper role of chance reflected by such. Henry focuses on the elements of our environment that, while they were once meticulously planned and constructed, are now left to the control of time, space, and nature. These once loved but now abandoned and dilapidated houses, parking lots, memorials, and billboards decay through happenstance. Henry strives to reflect this strongly present, yet often overlooked role of chance in our everyday lives. We do not control all forms of our landscape; it is often those that are accidental that are the most beautiful, and Jack Henry brings this to light through his spectacular sculptures.

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