The Shared Spaces Project- A collaborative art experience
Fly-over of Mount Vernon, NY Shared Spaces piece, created January 2019 with students, staff and faculty community of The Amani Public Charter School.
Images from Shared Spaces- Greencastle Indiana, July 2018. Followup work done at artist residency studio at Taleamor Park, LaPorte Indiana.
Images from Shared Spaces- LaGrange, GA, June 2018. Nearly 200 people attended and participated, bringing and
selecting objects and placing them in the piece, and assisting in all facets of creating the finished work. Photos by Henry Jacobs
Follow-up work done at Lillian E Smith Center artist residency studio, Clayton, GA
The Shared Spaces Project
A few years ago I realized that I just didn’t know enough about the parts of the US outside of my familiar coastal/urban circuit. It seemed that no one I talked to in New York or that I was reading, through no fault of their own, could tell me what was really going on in the rest of the country either. I just needed to go out myself and find out first-hand. As a starting point I applied to various residencies and figured out how to take the wall relief sculptures I was working on and do them remotely in temporary studio situations with new people in each place. By working with people in different parts of the country I hoped to advance my inquiry into who we are as a nation, to gain an appreciation of our complexity and diversity and make some new friends along the way. So far, after a few of these I can say it’s working!
With this project I have also been able to boost the level of my social practice, my socially engaged art. In the past I would create a large sculpture, place it in a public space and let the reactions of people as they encountered this unfamiliar experience in their neighborhood be the point of the piece. That was a dilute form of social practice, interesting but still limited: people were not directly engaged in the choices and creation of the work itself, only in responding to it. With the Shared Spaces project I am able to engage hundreds of people in the creation stages of the project, letting their voices and choices directly flow into the finished piece. The resulting sculpture, which in many cases remains in the community, becomes a compelling, permanent sculptural record of something of that place, those people, at that moment in time. Doing this practice in a wide range of American communities, from farming, manufacturing, suburban, inner-city and across all geographic regions will, I hope, result in some new ways to see and understand ourselves, a new mirror, an alternative to media-based narratives that increasingly seem to let us down or advance their own agendas.
At a formal level, these wall relief sculptures are simply an updated way of creating a very ancient sculptural form. From antiquity until recent times sculptors have been documenting and celebrating their culture’s achievements in sculptural relief, which might typically get placed on the sides of buildings and monuments. By blending numerous old and new techniques, from molds to carving to 3-d printing as well as simply found objects, I am able to assemble a dense set of contemporary symbolic representations of our culture. In each new community I lay these objects out in front of the public, and also invite them to suggest and bring their own, and then help them imprint and memorialize those symbols and objects alongside those of their neighbors in the Shared Spaces sculptures. The finished piece is a pluralistic mix of the voices and choices of all who participated, an accessible and yet subtle view into a people and a time.
When I have completed several of these Shared Spaces works I will ramp up my initial discussions with curators to assemble all the works, including various objects, images and video taken during their creation, and to exhibit them together in New York, Washington D.C and select other venues. It is my hope that seeing it all together will give us new insights, new ways of seeing ourselves, our similarities, our differences; in short, a better understanding of how to be Americans today.
Schedule of Completed and Upcoming Shared Spaces Events
LaGrange Art Museum, LaGrange, Georgia, June 21-23, 2018 News article from LaGrange Daily News, June 24, 2018.
Greencastle, Indiana, July 21-23, Putnam County Fairgrounds
Pelham, NY, October 20,21, created and sold for Pelham Art Center Fall Fundraiser
Mount Vernon, NY January 14-21, Amani Charter School
Rockford, IL /Janesville, WI area (May 2019, under discussion)
Other Cities/Areas on my wish list:
Texas, Mississippi, Berkeley, CA, Arizona, Oklahoma,