Exploration in Atrophy consists of photographs of decaying buildings throughout Chicago and the Midwest that were compiled and shown at a solo exhibition at the C33 gallery in Chicago. The liminal space within a building that has been abandoned is both empty and full, physically deprived of most human possessions but emotionally plentiful in stimulus and mystery. Being inside a place with no borders evokes a sense of freedom to do anything and go anywhere but this doesn’t come without the heightened awareness that fear and caution bring when being in a space that is more or less unregulated. Abandoned buildings are where man-made destruction and natural decay meet and are intimately intertwined with each other in the most beautiful, seductive, and almost human way. These places feel frozen in time with decades under their belt. There is no real way to describe the stagnant yet active air inside of these structures but I hope these photos help convey a small part of what I fell in love with in these buildings.
Upon completion, this installation will be composed of paper casts of a face I will create using a plaster mold which will then be sewn together. To determine final dimensions, I will spend time in different galleries and figure out an average distance viewers stand from pieces. I want to make the piece wide enough that the view of it dissolves into the periphery if a viewer is standing this average distance I have determined.
My piece stems from the ideas and issues surrounding spending formative years in a city as large as Chicago. Being a Chicago native definitely took a toll on my sense of self and other person-hood. After chatting with other people who grew up here and investigating it within myself through writing, I have found that this is a common occurrence among native Chicagoans of a certain age. It warps your sense of self growing up in a big city, when you see so many faces each day. Everywhere you go they all start to blend together: no one is special anymore and no one matters. It lifts consequences off of shoulders. If you do something wrong or embarrass yourself or offend a stranger, chances are you’re never going to see them again and they don’t know you at all nor do they know any of your relatives or friends.
While this can be liberating, it is also detrimental. I grew up feeling replaceable, like no one cared, and like I had to fight for everything I wanted because no one was watching out for me. This wasn’t because of my home life or schooling (both of which were perfectly average if not better). It was because I felt no community or roots. I use the word “community” very tenderly here, because there are different ways to form a community based on both organic and forced connection between peoples. In this context, I am referring to a repetitive community, one that forms based on familiarity. At the reception I will invite viewers and guests to use a seam ripper to disconnect one of the faces to take it home in an attempt to build an ever so slightly stronger connection to them.
I have no control over what someone would do with these little pieces I have created, but I hope they are nice to them. After spending hours and hours of labor and being stared at by countless eyes, I feel they are somewhat sentient. After this project, I hope to close my chapter in Chicago and move on to other parts of my practice. This feeling of disconnect from my home is something I still need to meditate on and process. By dedicating hours of it and drenching a project in this idea it will help me to move on and find closure with this city and allow me to move onto other areas of my studio practice.