In the process of applying for a couple of residencies, I ended up writing a new artist's statement. It's not radically different from my others, but hopefully clearer. One residency asked for a 400 word statement. This one is 403. They can ignore the last three words.
I'm posting this because I edit harder when I have the possibility of being embarassed by something I've written. This is a temporary place to edit it before I put it up on the website.
Statement March 27, 2008
I make objects and environments, and vector-based drawings that also turn into objects such as didactic-looking wall charts, enameled metal tiles, or wallpaper. I have also produced some animations with the help of another artist. Most of my work explores our apparent cultural preference for virtual or simulated experiences and things in favour of their “authentic” or “natural” counterparts.
I intend for most of my projects to appear as awkward, misguided solutions to contemporary problems. For example, when I designed the galvanized and chain-link trees depicted in Surrogate: Modular Outdoor Fixture after Hurricane Katrina, I imagined a mass shipment of soulless steel trees issued by the government to restore the devastated Louisiana landscape. Another piece, Ride, supposes that we might prefer the predictable, virtual experience of riding a mechanized “bucking bronco” ride rather than the live horse that plods in circles below, powering the contraption.
Crucial to all of my projects is the choice of materials that will best communicate a given idea. I am most skilled as a woodworker, but I need to learn how to work with a new material for every new project. I approve of sculptor Tony Cragg’s attitude towards materials use. He has written:
Because of the way and speed in which we produce new materials and objects, we do not have the time to develop a meaningful relationship with these materials. Trying to give these things more meaning, mythology and poetry is the clear predicate of art in this century.
Rather than forming a material in order to infuse it with meaning, though, I’m interested in allowing the industrial or commercial connotations of a material to direct the meaning of the artwork. I find it hard to distinguish between materials and products, since most materials I purchase are in no way raw, but are coherent things in themselves, laden with associations.
I’m fascinated by the notion of style, which I consider an inevitable byproduct of any juxtaposition, accumulation, shaping or connection of materials. Even as I intentionally design dysfunctional solutions to ambiguous problems, I try to do so elegantly, saturating each object with art-historical (and design-historical) references. These range from the aesthetics of museum display and “cabinets of wonder” in my early kinetic pieces (please see Quicktime movies on my website, http://www.shannonwright.org) to the Victorian decorative excess in my wallpaper that glorifies vigorously healthy urinary systems. This wallpaper and several upcoming pieces resemble designed products for mass consumption, while also attempting to critique the culture that would encourage their production.