“Lost & Found Again” by Michael Farrell
Reception: Friday, September 2 from 5-8 p.m.
View in our West Gallery through October 21.
All of my work in boxes, objects and my still-life photographic work is an exploration of memory and feeling through the juxtaposition of disparate things in defined spaces and relationships. I select and combine objects and place them into real or photographic space for the purpose of getting at aspects of my internal emotional nature. Throughout my adult life these contrived things have functioned as a sort of diary/poem or tabernacle/reliquary to commemorate the juncture points in the life that I’ve been living.
While many of these works are self-referential and autobiographical, I hope that viewers will be able to connect to more universal human themes and archetypes through them. Some of the boxes are structured to be obvious stories and have a kind of narrative woven within them. These are intended to portray mental or emotional states, to refer to the internal struggles or the moral ambivalences that befall each of us. Others are more obtuse and approach abstraction or pure formality, although for me none are devoid of some kind of storyline. While it is relatively easy to unravel some pieces, others may defy attempts to discover any specific meaning.
During the past fifteen years since I last exhibited a significant amount of this type of work I’ve been using these old wooden boxes and objects as arenas in which to confront the complex emotions, self-judgments, remorseful thoughts, tender memories, hopes for the future and grief over a life that no longer is and yet continues and evolves into something new and unknown as long as breath remains.
The still-life photographs are similar to the boxes in that they depend on the arrangement of objects within a confined space – in this case the frame of the photograph – to create a meaning or an allusion to an emotional state. These pictures are more formal and tend not to have any narrative structure. These works evolved from my work in three dimensions. In the early Nineties I began to create arrangements that exist only to be photographed. After I expose the film the arrangements are disassembled. The elements may be reused in other photos. Most eventually find their way into boxes.
Many of the photographs and objects celebrate work, men’s and women’s hands and the dignity of things earned by sweat and tears. Like many of the objects I’m drawn to, they reveal their stories through the patina of everyday use. In the novel Ulysses Irish author James Joyce said that “God is a shout in the street.” I believe that finding a well-worn item that jumps to the hand and asks to be included in one of these stories is true enough proof that God exists and that our souls occasionally become visible reflected in the most simple of things.
Although I began making assembled objects in 1968 while a student, I only showed this type of work for the first time here at the old University Place gallery in 1991 in a show called “Time & Materials.” My second show at University Place was in the summer of 1997 when my wife Katherine was in her final months of a terminal illness. The first “Lost & Found” was also at the Lux, as it was then called, in 2001. As I come close to my 7th decade these objects and images reflect my thoughts about growing old, finding a place in the world after retirement, the impermanence of it all…