Hard Times: Owed to Studs Terkel and All of Us
Continuing my conversation on the subject of class and mobility in American culture, I produced Hard Times: Owed to Studs Terkel and All of Us. I looked at the varying personal narratives of life during the Great Depression of the 1930s compiled for the book Hard Times by Studs Terkel and was struck by how simultaneously corporeal and disembodied the voices were. It is this vacillation of embodiment (in and out of the body) that economic survival and striving brings that interests me. I made these works with some cast body parts to literalize the body memory and experience in striving for meeting basic needs. This is not only a depiction of physical toil and struggle which was my expected narrative of depression-era living as in Steinbeck’s work, but also a disconnection and fragmentation. We are all multi-tasking so much to meet the accelerated demands of the digital age and to hustle our potentialities. Much is written about this, but even within this we eat and sleep and use the toilet. This scurrying is largely mental: psychological and intellectual.
"When My Ship Comes In" is a sliced bed as a sailboat with its angled keel racing to a finish line. The triangle was a return to the idea of "a piece of the pie" from earlier works of mine. Now this form is not only a graphic symbol but also moves and is propelled by a well-worn human foot. The interior of the mattress is filled with consumed food containers. The mattress is the vessel and the vehicle.
"Regatta" is docking line tethered to form a finish line, a string of #10 food cans or a row of party lights tied to cleats. Here I am thinking of the importance of food and hunger; how physical and psychological needs to succeed propel us.
Sitting on the wall is "Coffee Break". By using the crass humor of office culture I point to the alienation, and passive-aggressive frustration batted around between employees in the workplace. All the striving and financial need makes a precarious tension with pulling oneself together while on break to keep going in the workday. This is particularly relevant in today’s office culture which frequently combines overwork due to furloughs with desperation to not lose that job. I collapse the notion of getting caught with ones pants down with the simultaneous prankster mooning authority.
"Dry-Dock" is a laminated collage from the Forbes billionaire issue. The pages are copied and repeated and cut up and shaped into a dinghy. This dinghy is hung from the walls by two towel rings through grommets.
Finally, "Excess Insecurity" is a text piece on the public exterior walls of the sky room. The almost perfect cube sitting atop the contemporarily designed LA Louver Gallery, was exciting language to dialogue with: the history of minimalism and neutrality of geometric forms, as well as its reference to established culture and all its power. I decided to make a comment on our current economic/social condition. The excessive accumulation of a few is in tension with the financial insecurity of the many. The two graphic ladders I use symbolically for class/economic mobility. The panel with "Excess" has a ladder tied into a knot and the other panel of "Insecurity" has a ladder with a partial rainbow turning into a ladder eventually reaching empty black holes. I wanted this public piece to frame the individual art works displayed in the cube upstairs as well as engage the extensive foot traffic traveling to the beach and boardwalk nearby.