Assembly Lines: Stephen B. MacInnis, Ruth Marsh, Sarah Saunders, Aaron Weldon
This exhibition presents the recent work of four artists who create series of objects in a manner that suggests the production line. Individual artworks appear here to be mere parts of a greater whole, their singularity obscured by the impact of the repetitive process or system that encompasses them. What matters seems to be the passage of things through various states, as if art making were a question of transmutation rather than creation. This movement through an “assembly line” can burn away, obscure, freeze, animate, and multiply that which was once charged with memory, individuality and weight.
Painter Stephen B. MacInnis registers the impact of multiple pressures on the act of creation in his Long Series, 1000 1-foot by 1-foot paintings, each valued, somewhat whimsically, at exactly $100.00. The work was created over two years through a method that incorporated pragmatic, economic, and conceptual issues. A father of small children, MacInnis no longer found it possible to paint in his usual concentrated manner. Instead, he broke down his various mark-making techniques and put his work through a production cycle involving long-term, aggregate creation and a relinquishing of the control and focus we associate with the visual artist. In this installation, reception is also openly governed by external systems and frameworks, as the individual units of the Long Seriesare shown to be quite different when presented in stacks, in their storage boxes, framed, or unframed.
Ruth Marsh collects dead bees and contemplates the fate of each one, asking the person who gave her the tiny insect how they think it died. Longing—for connection to the insect world, or to a lost individual—is both embodied and worked through in the act of preservation; each bee is an “unfaithful copy,” the result of a meticulous effort of reconstruction and adornment. Parts that were missing are carefully replaced with jewelry parts, wire, soft velvet, electrical resistors, and various discarded materials. The end products, displayed in bell jars, suggest both holy relics and didactic specimens.
Sculptor Sarah Saunders immerses cotton textiles in liquid porcelain, then fires them in a process that results in the disintegration of the original, often highly charged, artifact, leaving a porous shell. In a parallel practice, she has created anthropomorphically-scaled scans of silver spoons left to her by her mother. Objects of memory and intimacy are transformed into groupings with a new and collective direction and life, although the individuality of each object remains in the details of its patterning and evidence of use.
Aaron Weldon takes found, though highly personal, photographic imagery, and refracts it through various systems of reproduction and circulation, ranging from repainting, to engaging in the touristic market by adopting the format of “driftwood art,” and to documenting response across geographical and temporal divides. His installation explores social-cultural and economic questions of the image’s value, as well as its place within experiential frameworks embodied in the art exhibit.
Pan Wendt, curator