Rather than try to reduce America to one discourse, this collection of objects addresses complex narratives and the shape-shifting mappings of time, space and power. Awareness of time and history becomes plastic, as artists reorganize the past and reconfigure power structures of the present. The familiar is presented as the unfamiliar, an inversion of the American narrative is retold and reorganized.
The works in this exhibition elicit a discourse about permanence, impermanence, history, and memory. The artists ask the viewer: “Who are the stewards of American history?”, “What is suitable for publication and what is censored?”, and “What is the nature of power and how does it inform our identity as Americans?” Questions emerge as to what has been excised, fractured, or scrambled within the narrative of American history.
Each artist addresses these issues using a variety of materials, approaches and contexts. Rose DeSiano’s photographic collages present a complex portrait of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Her large scale predella explores historical concerns through photography and digital manipulation. DeSiano records historical imagery while reconsidering the relationship of past and present. Reproducing fractured text and imagery from The New York Times, Shanti Grumbine’s prints question power and value structures in print media addressing what is lost as experiences are transformed into newsworthy articles. Through a myriad of precise cuts, the viewer is left to imagine what has been excised. Valerie Hegarty’s mixed media works expose the dark side of American history and examine the concepts of repression, decay, and dissolution in the American historical narrative by reference to common North American motifs. As a first person witness in his Tile Paintings and Night Vision series, artist and Iraq war veteran James Raczkowski recovers and records historical monuments destroyed in recent conflicts and uses memory to fuel these intense visual representations of war. Melissa Vandenburg’s Burn Drawings present a series of American visual icons and patriotic words addressing the fragility of American patriotism today and the nature of power and permanence in the American political landscape.
Memory, history, and imagination are deeply enmeshed in this exhibition as power structures are questioned, examined, and recontextualized. As a collective whole, the artwork asks the viewer to consider the mercurial dialogue between present and past.