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found

March 5 – March 26 2016

“I once was lost, but now am found,"

—John Newton

This March, the harts gallery brings together three artists whose works consist almost entirely of found objects and repurposed materials. Their methods and outcomes, however, couldn’t be more distinct. From cut and sorted book covers to 19th Century bibles in a shipwright’s vise, Erin Walrath, Stephen Reynolds and Silas Finch approach the three dimensional form from entirely different perspectives, yet all begin their journeys from the same flea market, scrapyard or abandoned dogtrack. Reconstructing the collective memories of our industrial past in a post-consumer age, FOUND opens on March 5 from 5-8pm and runs through March 26 at the harts gallery, 20 Bank Street, New Milford, Connecticut.

For Erin Walrath, “color is at the heart of [her] process and is the predominant factor in the selection, sorting, deconstruction and re-assembling that takes place in the studio.” Working primarily with discarded books, she often finds their covers or “shells” to be the most precious element. “Relics of an era…the information these old books contain is literally undergoing a transformation in our world, much of it disappearing into thin air or — if deemed useful — taking its place in cyberspace.” For her, this points to “a manifestation of a greater movement — an evolution away from heaviness and absolutes in favor of ideas that are more fluid and instantly accessible.”

A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Erin studied painting and illustration, but found the realm of representationalism too constrictive. All she wanted was to play. Her newest assemblages consist of cut book covers sorted by color and length. “It is the associative power and formal characteristics of these surfaces that I am after as I utilize them as building blocks and pixels for my compositions. Guided by intuition, my only real goal is to create a new context where these visual elements, free now from the burden of words, can convey new meaning.”

Stephen Reynolds is a sculptor working primarily in steel and wood, with a background in printmaking and drawing. He considers himself “a great admirer of the Dadaist’s use of disjunction and absurdity as protest against the hierarchical, hyper-rationalized society that led to the horrors of World War I.” For Stephen, “worn, hand wrought steel surfaces suggest the industrial base that American society was founded on, which for the most part has fallen fallow. Our workers once made things. [Now] the capitalist mechanism has pushed us away from physical production toward an erratic economy based on flimsy, volatile financial instruments.” In his work, “intimations of scientific instruments or industrial structures raise expectations of functionality, but are quickly subverted by other discordant or sub-rational juxtapositions. This tension results from the additive process that [he uses], which is similar to how old farmhouses were built, adding on rooms as they were needed.”

“I have always found a great beauty in things that are functional,” he continues. “Much of my work comes from the observation of old industrial structures, scientific instruments and anatomical diagrams. My work draws upon this wide vocabulary of archaic and contemporary elements to explore and comment upon a world where the social, biological, political and historical collide in ways that challenge us daily.”

Silas Finch is a storyteller that prefers not to speak, an immortalizer of the objects he is obsessed with collecting. The son of an antiques restorer and dealer, he is entirely self-taught in his artistic practice. For Silas, the greatest challenge in sculpture is to be simple, “to strip something down to its last component.” He looks for a story inside the materials he chooses, and his journeys for objects take him deep into the recesses of human culture and natural history. Abandoned carnival shelving and hinges become birds in flight over a cloudy seaside landscape. A World War II parachute is pinned into form to project a 20 foot-long wearable dress. The footbeds of antique high-heeled shoes are painstakingly inlaid with wild thorns. “I’m more influenced by the art of craftsmanship, something that I feel has gotten lost in the pop culture of today.” His methods of assembly often predate welding or adhesives. “I prefer to find a natural connection, a cold connection [between objects], a balance between the two.” Open to all materials and knowledge, he doesn’t paint objects, but manipulates their texture and shade using varnish and urethane. Viewing his sculptures, we are reminded of the multiple narratives that life suggests and the stories that every object silently contains.