An Evolution of Salt: Gabrielle Dunkley on Olivia Robinson Exhibit

Post by Gabrielle Dunkley, Stamp Gallery of Art

Before oil, salt was a commodity that forged empires. The dual dichotomies between products we consume and the byproduct of salt found in sweat are thoroughly dissected in Olivia Robinson’s whimsical exhibition.
Robinson used the Technological Revolution (1899-1902) as inspiration for her examination of labor and the byproduct of labor (sweat). The 192 hand-painted signs  speak to a time before digital mass production. The functional bicycle cart containing products seasoned with salt from human sweat demonstrate the process of utilizing waste for resources. Finally, the vibrant LED installation powered by human sweat gives new meaning to “powering your art”.

Robinson challenges viewers to consider the historical implications surrounding salt. Visitors indulge in a surreal reality created by her character, S.W.Eat, a clever wordplay on treats seasoned by sweat. These products serve as a vessel for communicating the social paradigms from which labor, power, and public health collide throughout history. The language we use to foster it, how we consume it, and the potential mediums to produce it are all examined in this retelling of S.W.Eat’s salted products.

While preparing and installing our most recent exhibit, the gallery staff noticed a rather peculiar phenomenon. Intrigued visitors peeked through our door asking:

What’s with the signs?”

The Stamp Gallery is a uniquely designed space with 188 windows that offer a fish bowl effect for visitors to peek inside.  After the staff spent hours cleaning every window and carefully pinning the ambiguous posters to the panes, visitors noticed the sudden barrage of words filling the once transparent gallery walls. During the installation process, we invited visitors to look a little closer at the posters. 

“Those can’t be hand painted.”

Yes they can. Visitors were both stunned and intrigued while looking upon the tiny traces of brush strokes.  Each poster featured a poem Artist Olivia Robinson generated by a linguistics archive that could compute words used in magazine archives, brochures, and advertisements used in the late 1800s. Robinson would take away commonly used prepositions and articles to reveal words that surrounded the context of labor, salt, and sweat. Remarkable accidental poems began to reveal themselves in dense, socially charged phrases. Robinson spent months hand painting impeccably exact block lettering that resembled the work of a printing press. At first glance, there was no way of knowing the amount of sweat that went into those posters, but visitors would soon learn just how much …

Want to learn more about Olivia Robinson’s work? You’re in luck. Contrary to the years described in her exhibit’s title, she is alive and ready to show you her interpretation of the eve of the technological era. Stop by the Stamp Gallery soon to experience art powered by the sweat off of Robinson’s back. Literally.

Stay curious,

Gabrielle Dunkley
Stamp Gallery


Olivia Robinson: 1889-1902 Pre-show Interview

The Stamp Gallery is excited to present Olivia Robinson: 1889-1902. Robinson’s work challenges audiences to consider sweat as both the byproduct of labor and the elemental source for one of the world’s most valuable commodities: salt. We had the privilege of interviewing Olivia Robinson regarding her inspiration for this labor intensive venture.

Your current exhibition “takes place” during the years of 1899-1902, what drew you towards this particular time period?

This time period, just before WWI, was called the Technological Revolution.  This was our second Industrial Revolution (running from 1860 to WWI) and we were looking to new scientific innovations – particularly electrical and chemical technologies – to make us more efficient, smarter, richer, stronger, faster, and generally more powerful within our personal and public domains.  Much as we do today.  And often at the expense of the environment and those that worked in industries.

The time period also lies on the precipice of many radical transformations: we still employed women and children in sweat shops in the US, leaps and bounds were being made in scientific discoveries about the atom, the US was not the center of the universe, European nations had colonies all over the world (but would loose most of them within 50 years), cinema had just been born, women could not vote in the US, segregation was still a norm, and antibiotics had not yet been invented.  So different from now, but how do some of these issues still remain, even if seemingly hidden now?  Then and now, power was still generated in essentially the same ways – both electronically and politically.

Additionally, this is a time period where we think of most goods having been handmade.  Interestingly, many of our goods today are also handmade – but we don’t see our current products this way.  Did you know that we have never been able to invent a machine to make a basket?  All baskets to this day are handmade.  The sewing machine essentially has not changed since its development in the 1860’s, and someone still sews the clothes we purchase today.  Hard to believe, but underneath the sleek cover of our electronic devices lies an array of hand-assembled circuits.  I think this is both amazing and strange.

Is there a specific concept or argument you are aiming to denote through this particular exhibition?

I am very interested in different notions of power (in all senses of the word) and its origins.  I have a lot of ideas I am thinking about: power, exchange, words, alchemy, meditation, history, electricity, internal and external sources of energy.

In the exhibition, there will be essentially three different works that all relate generally to each other.  A bicycle-driven cart that relates to external power, work, exchange, and public interaction.  A series of hand painted posters.  Each poster is a short “poem” made from words that were used in 1899-1902 in conjunction with a specific term, such as “work”, “health”, “share” and “power”.  The third is a series of electronic textile pieces that relate to internal sources of generating power.  I think of them as alchemy and meditation panels.

You used yourself as a fictitious character during this time period in your work. Why did you choose to represent yourself as this character rather than another individual? 

“S.W. Eats” is the name I gave my small business that I ran during this time (1899-1902).  My small business sold salts and salted products that I made from sweat.  When I rode my cart around and sold my products, I took on an appropriate sales persona that went with the business.


What is the significance of using sweat as a source of salt for your character’s products?

Sweat is a by-product from human exertion.  It is an indication of effort, work, labor, exercise, heat.  Sweat also contains pheromones and other personal markers that are specific to the person it came from, as well as salts.  In most industries, the personal markers of who makes our goods are removed in the process of the making, packaging and selling.  With creating edible products from sweat, it seems to constantly beg the question, where did this come from?  Whose sweat is this?

The name of your entrepreneurial endeavor, S.W. Eats, is a clever play on words. Does humor often play a role in your work?

Sometimes! I like humor and I like laughing, I think it’s very healthy.

Much of your collaborative work incorporates human history as a narrative. What inspired you to create a fictional history as a vessel for communicating the commodity of salt in actual history?

Ah!  Who said anything about fictional histories?  How do we know what is true in the histories we read?  I think fiction is always present with any depiction of history.  My imagination often fills in the gaps within documented history.  I think collaborating with history can make for an interesting experiential understanding of it.

Want to learn more? Browse Olivia Robinson’s work on her website or check out our recent behind-the-scenes take on the exhibit from gallery attendant Gabrielle Dunkley.

Olivia Robinson: 1889-1902 will run from September 9th to October 20th at the Stamp Gallery.

Stay curious.


Digitalizing Our Natural World: Gabrielle Dunkley On Tara Rodgers Exhibit

Post by Gabrielle Dunkley, Stamp Gallery of Art

If you asked me what “Super Collider” software was before I installed the “Tara Rodgers: Patterns of Movement” exhibit alongside my fellow Stamp Gallery staff and artist Tara Rodgers, I’d ask you if you were talking about physics.

After witnessing screens of overwhelming code, I began to notice the poetry behind Rodgers’ intent. Her software managed to marry two seemingly impossible combinations: nature and artifice. From screens scrolling reactive codes mimicking unpredictable patterns of sound in nature to compositions intended to resemble the chaos theory, the exhibit perpetuated a unique and cerebral experience that challenged visitors to see the nature of our digital world, both figuratively and literally. 

One of the common questions visitors asked while placing the over-sized headphones on their ears was:

“Is this the sound you hear when you put your ear to a seashell?”

At first, visitors would walk through the gallery gazing at the graphics dancing on the television monitors while listening to cleverly composed imitations of white noise. Interestingly enough, while walking through a “sea” of expensive software, they still felt a presence of nature.

I began to notice eerie associations between a new “white noise”. We spend most of our day listening to the hum of air conditioning, computer processor fans, and seemingly unnoticeable high pitches bouncing between cell phone signals in the air. Rodgers comments on our interpretation of the natural world while simultaneously introducing a new version of what we consider “natural”.

Nature 2.0 could be a suitable message: intentionally pixilated pictures of tree branches and clouds paired with a light composition of wind imitating white noise. Or was it white noise imitating wind?

You’d have to listen for yourself to find out. You can learn more about Tara Rodgers’ creative process by reading our interview or by visiting her critically acclaimed website pinknoises.com and listen to clips of her work.

Stay curious.

-Gabrielle Dunkley, Stamp Gallery of Art


Tara Rodgers: Patterns of Movement Pre-Show Interview

The Stamp Gallery is thrilled to announce our newest exhibition: Patterns of Movement by Tara Rodgers (July 23rd – August 24th). This multifaceted and interactive exhibit features a complex and technical exploration of sound and visuals captured by composer and sound artist, Tara Rodgers. We had the pleasure of interviewing Rodgers regarding her creative process.Image

You have traveled to several locations for your installations. Many venues for exhibitions add an accidental influence on how an artist’s work is interpreted to audiences. Which location haunted your work the most? Do you feel the space your work is translated in has a direct impact on your audiences?

This is a good question. I want to take my response in a slightly different direction, as many galleries and artists are now grappling with how to accommodate sound installations, especially in shows that contain multiple sound works. Often I have presented sound art in contexts where the venue was not at all an “accidental” influence on the piece, but absolutely determined the parameters of how the work could be shown (e.g., that it needed to be played through headphones rather than speakers, or played for a short period of time rather than on endless loop, and at a particular volume, etc). Ideally, artists working with sound need to respectfully push back on all this–to insist on using space and time as integral parts of the creative instrument, within parameters of what a venue can reasonably accommodate. Here’s something to think about: I just saw an outstanding and widely reviewed exhibition at a prominent museum in New York. The paintings and photographs were shown in gorgeous frames that seemed consistent with the aesthetic of the work. And the pieces with sound were presented through cheap and bad quality headphones! This seemed more likely the result of the museum’s norms, rather than of creative or deliberate choices by the artists. I hope this continues to change. (By the way–the Stamp Gallery has been excellent for welcoming and encouraging many modes of performance and presentation!)

Back to your question: The first time I presented “Butterfly Effects,” inside the Mills chapel, some of the doors and windows were ajar and the traffic on the highway created a nice, unplanned interaction with the noise elements in the piece. Likewise, when I played jazz piano at a cocktail lounge in New York, on warm nights we would leave the doors open and passersby would sometimes stop and listen, sometimes dance on the sidewalk for awhile and then move on. That was lovely: extending an unamplified performance into the larger time and space of the city. When I perform house and techno music in clubs, I especially enjoy the challenges of tweaking tracks produced in a home studio for a much bigger sound system, and the surprise of how that sound changes when a cavernous space is empty during sound check, vs. when it is full with bodies later in the evening. These are interesting technical challenges to resolve, and also can be wonderfully dynamic and affective. My memory of the most sonically dramatic instance of this is from a performance at the Empty Bottle in Chicago.

What sorts of technology do you use to execute your projects?

I like to find and use tools that are well suited to a particular task. I also like working with different tools in projects that are going on simultaneously, in order to challenge myself to adapt and work in new ways. So, for example, right now I have a few areas that I’m working in. I use the programming environment SuperCollider for the kinds of data-based and generative compositions shown in this exhibition. SuperCollider is very well suited to real-time transformations of sounds, offering great subtlety in sonic detail and the possibility of constructing elaborate compositional systems. When I compose techno, I work with hardware synthesizers and drum machines that were either made in the 1980s or ‘90s, or that emulate those now classic designs. One can make this music with software, but these hardware instruments are so thoroughly integral to that genre of music, I feel that an important part of the craft of making that music is to learn these instruments inside and out. Separately, I’ve also been making improvised noise music with small, analog synthesizers. Each of these has particular quirks that characterize the tones and patterns they generate, so when you play with two or three of them simultaneously, it is inevitably an unpredictable result. I am intrigued by the ways that these analog synths are each unique–the antithesis of digital instruments or objects which extend the promise, at least, of replicability.

Finally, lately I have doing comparative analyses of technologies that I previously took to be fairly transparent, like mixers. I have been focusing on how these relatively passive channels for sound are in fact active tone shapers, due to their material configurations (i.e., their quality, design, age, state of disrepair, etc.). In this line of research, I am genuinely interested in technological aspects, but also curious about the social and cultural dimensions of this quest–like, why do audiophiles obsess so much over tone “quality”? (Clearly, I participate in these obsessions too…)

You recently wrote “Pink Noises”, a book that brings together twenty-four interviews with women involved in electronic music and sound cultures and explores their personal histories, creative methods, and the roles of gender in their work. How has the process of writing this book affected your artwork? Do your writing and your art share similar themes?

The process of writing Pink Noises emerged out of my music and soundmaking activities. The project began as a website that launched in 2000, which I created to document the work of women in electronic music and to make resources on music production more widely available to women and girls. The process of compiling interviews for the website, and later for the book, followed my own travels as a practitioner through various electronic and experimental music scenes. The people I interviewed in the book were typically mentors, colleagues, collaborators, friends; so, Pink Noises can be understood as a historical document of an extended network of women making electronic music and sound art at a particular moment in time (the early-’00s, when the interviews were conducted). Its primary influences on my artwork have been the opportunity to launch ongoing conversations with a range of women working in these fields, and to understand how my work unfolds in the contexts of this community and its many historical trajectories.

My artwork continues to generate questions that drive my writing; I am currently researching a cultural history of synthesized sound, investigating the century before synthesizers were made commercially available. Here, I am interested in the cultural roots of common terms and tools in contemporary electronic music production–such as the “waveform” and “amplitude envelope.” I am thinking about how these terms became commonplace, how they frame creative choices in the present, and what they tell us about how certain people have defined their relationships to each other and to technologies.

We see that many of your influences stem from jazz. Jazz is known for incorporating particularly fragmented sound. Did that have an impact on your work as an artist?

Yes, I grew up in a household that was immersed in jazz music. I learned music making, and piano improvisation in particular, almost before I learned to communicate with (other) language. Listening to jazz records fueled my curiosity about sounds; I have learned countless things about how sounds can be made and organized from the relentless inventiveness of jazz musicians. So, for one example, some of my favorite jazz albums are duets between Oscar Peterson and Count Basie on Pablo Records; I think about the ways that Peterson plays a cascade of about a hundred notes to Basie’s well-placed one or two, as well as the interplay of timbres when a piano is placed in conversation with a Fender Rhodes or Hammond organ. Also, it was through jazz that I first came to understand music as an archive of social history, a medium of personal and cultural expression, and a political tool. These things remain foundational to my research and teaching, as well as to my reasons for making art.

What is the significance of combining both visuals and audio in your art?

This was not something that I actively set out to do; it was an outcome of particular circumstances that resulted inongoing experiments. The first pieces I made that combined audio and visuals were “Places I’ve Lived & Traveled To” and “20 Largest State-to-State Migration Flows” in 2005-06. I was taking video classes in the MFA program at Mills College, and there was an analog video mixer available to students. It was kind of outdated, and not many people chose to use it. I became fascinated by feeding audio signals into the video input; it translated the sound waves as visible oscillations and presented several options for infusing them with color and changing how they were framed on the monitor. These color and framing options were precisely what made the mixer seem outmoded and tacky if you were working with video. But, for visualizing waveforms, I found these features to be quite elegant. From that particular tool and the possibilities that it opened up, I started asking questions like: What if we think of sound waves as a form of landscape? What if we could look out a window and see them passing by, and imagine running through them? And those sorts of speculative questions ended up informing the concepts and content of the pieces I made.

My entry into converting digital photographs into sound was also largely happenstance. I was invited to do an artist residency for a week in 2007 at the Western Front in Vancouver. The residency carried with it an assignment to write a piece of music using a mobile phone. (It’s worth saying that in 2007, the options for doing that were exponentially more limited than they are now.) Nothing about that assignment seemed consistent with my way of working, until I realized that I could take photos with a mobile phone and use those as source material for music. This allowed me to push further on the questions of how to represent landscapes using sound, questions which I had begun to explore in the “Places” and “Flows” works mentioned previously. So, making the “Sonic Panoramas” of Vancouver (and later Montreal and New York) came out of this initial circumstance of needing to write a piece of music on deadline, using a mobile phone.

As you can probably sense from my answers, sound remains central when I am making a project. I have been interested in what happens when sound is translated as or derived from another medium, like photography or video, but sound always remains “the thing”–my focus.

Is there a specific concept or argument you are aiming to convey through your work?

If there is a theme running through all of these works, it is that I am interested in using sound to prompt reflection on the interrelations among humans, other species, technologies, and environments. But I hope that the works are open to many interpretations.

Many people encountering sound art, especially for the first time, find it all very abstract. So, I like to include program notes or wall text to indicate what I was thinking about when I made the piece, or to somehow demystify the process. However, I understand this text to be more like a starting point to dialogue with whomever is experiencing or interpreting the work, rather than an argument. For me, art functions as a counterpoint to my scholarly research, which conventionally requires more linear modes of argumentation. In contrast to that, I understand art as a place where one is free to set up a more speculative kind of oasis–like a set of generative relations that can hold tension and remain unresolved. I prefer not to convey an argument in my artwork; in most cases, I think that would be a failure of the work.

Save the date to Patterns of Movement!

Learn more about Tara Rodgers by viewing her award winning website  or by reading a bird’s eye view of her exhibit written by Gabrielle Dunkley.


Ian Davis Interview by Samantha Roppelt

Posted by: Samantha Roppelt, Class of 2012, Art Studio Major

Ian Maclean Davis is an artist who lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.  Using various processes and materials, he creates drawings and paintings dealing with appropriated images.  Layering colors and lines, Davis addresses memory and how an initial image or visual is skewed over time.

[Samantha Roppelt]: When viewing your work, you come to realize it contains recognizable images amongst layers of organic lines and bold colors. The formal elements of your work are so tightly interwoven at times; it creates a tension between competing information.  Can you describe your work process and how you develop this imagery?

[Ian Davis]: Process is difficult for me to discuss, because when you’re doing it, it seems like it’s all happening at the same time. It’s hard to break it down into a chronology.  I work from appropriated images that have meaning to me.  Sometimes that choice of image is intended to function as a trigger of recognition for the viewer.  But, through layering different images, or the same image atop itself, often the source is distorted enough that I cannot reasonably expect anyone to recognize the originals.  I can only hope that a sense of it remains.  I try to create a dynamic between that cumulative abstraction and the degree of image recognition.

Sometimes, the image comes first, and size, format and materials are spun off of that.  Other times – if I want to make small drawings, for instance – I try to find a subject image that will translate to that format and medium.  Further, other times I’m working from a thematic subject, such as album covers or figuration, and everything else follows that choice.

I also pre-visualize the work digitally.  Any image I start with is processed through multiple graphics programs, but the final work is made rendered by hand.  It varies greatly from piece-to-piece as to how much of this digital process is retained in the finished work.  Really, I’m making paintings based on my designs, but I’m not painting my designs. The designs are an under-painting.  I like for the work to evolve at every step.

[SR]: When you visited my drawing class as a guest lecturer in Spring of 2011, you described your work as having layers both literally and figuratively.  In terms of figuratively, you used a metaphor about the “layers of a joke”? Would you mind going into detail about this and describing how you expect viewers to react to your work?

[ID]: I’ll address the last point first.  I hope that the viewer’s reaction to the work is of intrigue and interest.  If they recognize my source, that’s always a good hook, but I hope they find more to discover in the work.  “I feel like there’s something there I should recognize, but I can’t quite put my finger on it” is my favorite reaction.  It addresses the subject of memories – remembering something they once saw.   Ultimately, my work is about my memory (factual & fuzzy), so trying to connect with someone else’s visual/idea retention seems appropriate.

Contemporary Art can be compared to Humor, in that with each, success is subjective and predicated on what your audience knows and is willing to accept.  Certain presumptions can be made about what people will respond to.  A joke can be funny just from the delivery of the line, just as a painting can be beautiful exclusively in how paint is applied.  Additional content is not always required, or necessary.  The specific example you’re asking me about is a comment comedian Dennis Miller made probably sometime in the early 1990’s.  When asked how he constructs his jokes, he said (I’m paraphrasing from memory) he tries to build layers of reference in the jokes to meet different members of his audience; the first might be recognizable to most of the audience, a second to only half, and a third reference that only he and one other person in the room understands.  A lot of artists work this way; building critique, references and other content into the work that may not be immediately apparent.  I always admired the multi-level approach Miller describes, in that there’s an initial appealing element, which builds into something complex as he adds more and more arcane juxtapositions.  At that point, there’s real potential for the work to transcend just being about a reference that people recognize.

Working from popular imagery, such as from advertising, movies and art history, I see a danger of completely relying on a reference to give artwork meaning, with no other angle on the subject.  For this reason, I feel an obligation to transform and synthesize the images into something else.  To return to the comedy metaphor, a pratfall is always funny, just as harmonious colors are beautiful.  Also, reference to something already familiar is reassuring and appealing.  I cannot only rely on a visual hook to justify and be the content of my work.  Relying on familiarity can result in work like that of Mr. Brainwash (“Exit Through The Gift Shop”), who uses appropriation the way “Family Guy” uses pop culture references for humor rather than actual jokes.  There is a lot of appeal and comfort in familiarity.  That can make us chuckle. One of my goals is to give my work the potential for more than a chuckle of recognition.

[SR]: Since 2005 there has been a major transition in the size scale of the majority of your paintings.  Has this shift in size changed more than just the formal impact of your work?

[ID]: I think scale and format have always been things that shift in the work, depending upon where my head is at, and what resources are available.  These sorts of changes evolve from necessity, among many other factors.  I completed some of my largest pieces in graduate school, when I could take advantage of the available time, space and budget for large work. But I also made many small fine-line drawings at that same time that I don’t often show.  A few years ago, I started my smallest work, the white pen-and-ink drawings. I had moved out of a sizable live/work space and into a small studio apartment, to which I needed to adjust and make new work.  The most surprising aspect of switching to pen and ink was how physically difficult it was.  I had not held a dip-pen in my hand in many, many years.  So, there was a re-training period for my hand because of skill I had lost over those years.  Several paintings I made from that same time nearly abandoned line-work entirely; the small drawings freed me to experiment with other approaches.  I guess the answer to your question is – YES – these changes in scale and medium lead to different results across the board.  Moreover, I’ve always believed that the size, shape and scale of an art object holds potential for content.  It’s important to me to consider the phenomenology of being in the presence of the work.  I always try to tie together the ideas, presentation and format of the pieces, so I suppose they mutate each other all the time.

[SR]: In your email, you included a photograph of three studies that you’re currently working on and it appears to be similar to your other work, but what I find interesting is its lack of a figurative focal point.  Is there a figure concealed by the intricate line work?  How are these similar and/or different from your previous work?

[ID]: Sometimes I do make a very conscious decision to include the figure, but more often than not, you could say it’s almost a coincidence. Some of the time, I’m choosing my source images for figurative content.  Other times, I’m choosing images that happen to include figures, but the real content I’m looking at is in the overall composition and the symbolism of what the image means to me, or to the culture at large.

The 3 recent studies are different for me – I don’t usually do “studies.”  My definition:  work done as prep for other, more ambitious pieces.  As much as I change my materials, I have a tendency to be experimental and not research using new methods before diving into a big project. Thanks to that impulse, I am surrounded a fair amount of half-completed work.  These small paintings are “true” studies.  They are sections of 3 larger compositions that I’m developing; tests in handling materials and making marks.  In fact… these larger compositions do have figurative elements.  We will see how well they read when they are complete…

[SR]: Our readers are interested in the arts in some shape or form, but as a senior art studio student with an impending graduation, I would like to ask if you have any advice for artists who are entering the contemporary scene.

[ID]: The contemporary scene is something way bigger than my scope at this point, but I can offer suggestions based on my own experience.  Continue to make work.  I found that difficult, as a part of the full-time workforce.  The biggest hurdle I had was finding a way to be my own best/worst critic, and setting my own goals.  Until then, school had provided so much of that structure for me.  It always helps to find or remain connected to a community that has similar goals as you do. That may materialize in surprising ways as you adjust to more diverse goals and challenges.  Be open to these changes.  For many years, I abandoned painting and drawing, but I had a core belief that I would return to them, and that the digital/collage work I was doing would lead me back in that direction.  Allow your ideas to evolve, be brave and keep learning.  Finally, if your goal is to be a professional, behave as professionally as you wish to be considered, and show your work as much as you can, wherever you can.


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.


Andres Lobo on Jack Henry’s Art in Work Sites

 

Blog Post on Work Sites: by Andres Lobo, Stamp Gallery Staff, Class of 2012, Environmental Science and Policy

The first time I saw Jack Henry’s work was when I came into the Stamp Gallery to help Jason Hughes (GA) with Seth Adelsberger and Alex Ebstein (from Nudashank Gallery) install the show. By the time I arrived for my shift, most of the installation work was completed, but there was one thing I did help with.

Jack Henry’s Untitled (Core Sample #7) piece was sitting on a dolly. It’s a massive composite of post consumer/industrial waste mixed with resin and cement to help glue it together and looks like it weighs a few hundred pounds. Jason instructed me that they were going to lift it off the dolly, and I was going to be low enough to slide a square board (an inch in height) underneath of it. They both lifted it and once I got down to slide the board in, I came eye to eye with Core #7. Layer after layer are bursting with colors of red, blue, yellow, and green. The colors at closer glance are many items we see everyday such as wood, plastic guns, trash bags, and rims from an automobile. The resin material seems to be mostly black, gray, and flat where the resin and cement molded to the wall of the frame it was cooled in. There is a seemingly infinite amount of textures in Untitled (Core Sample #7) because of such a wide variety of materials that were used. After the piece was placed down it seemed to levitate off the ground.

Coming from an Environmental Science background it’s easy to misinterpret artists who are using recycled or discarded materials. Once the rose colored glasses have been taken off, and we see how much material we extract, produce, consume, trash, and move out of our peripheral vision, it becomes difficult to see those items as anything but wasted resources. Core #7 rings very loud with me as it shows the slurry of materials that our planet is constantly being forced to ingest as we pile more “trash” into landfills. It puts these materials into a display so we can really stare into the concept of waste and truly understand what it means, where it goes, and what it holds in the future for us. Most people do not think about where their waste goes because it simply disappears when waste services picks it up. These sculptures are a “core sample” into human infrastructure and force the viewer to witness what we are so constantly trying to hide away into the land; “Waste”.