Saturday, January 24, 2009

In Between Drawing and Thinking: Marc Dombrosky

About the Artist:
Marc Dombrosky lives in Tacoma, WA. His work is represented by Platform Gallery, Seattle. Collaborative projects with Shannon Eakins are (slowly) being archived and described on their blog
Marc talks about how he threads his thoughts:
In your work, what do your materials (discarded notes, sewing thread, etc.) imply?
Each material in my practice responds to the others, hopefully unfolding and layering the experiences of being with the work. The discarded notes potentially imply an absent or invisible or distanced community, people who are contributing to this project without ever knowing their roles in the experience or outcome. Phantom writers. Simultaneously, the papers also imply (to me) a very visible community, as the process is growing organically; over the past few years, friends and acquaintances have begun frequently and repeatedly giving me notes, drawings, and scraps that they too collect from the street and have, in some cases, coveted for years.

When I go into my files and look at the hundreds of scraps of paper lying in wait, I'm confronted with my own feelings of obligation and responsibility to both people I know and people I've never met. Where are all of these writers and how do they lose all of these things? Because of the nature of my practice--looking and finding things incessantly (in a way that Steve Stelling has described as a "perceptual stutter", which I like for so many reasons)--this community with unknown authors and fastidious collectors (I'm obviously among them, with them now) often dictate how and when I work. Conversation, walking, collecting the mail, all of these spaces in my life, are now deeply charged, with new works arriving constantly, unexpectedly, and unendingly.

Likewise, the thread itself implies many things. Thread becomes an implication or signifier of sewing and the work/time/traits associated with that practice, as well as a means of tracking my own progress, showing me how and where I move through an image. The thread also conceals, amplifies, and repeats the content of the original material, and I spend a good amount of time at
Hancock Fabrics matching thread colors to old notes. While I'm covering the original mark on the paper, I'm very concerned with replicating the color and structure of the lines, as if somehow this validates or secures or accurately projects the intended message.

You do consider your work to be drawing?
I've been reticent to fix the meaning or position of the work in terms of an approach (naming or implicating *drawing* over painting for instance, or writing, sculpture, needlework, or whatever), but yes, for me drawing is a vital starting point and practice that sheds a good amount of light on why, where, and how the works can be navigated and understood. Yes, my work is drawing, among other things. I just can't say how much.

Can you discuss the roles of temporality and permanence in your work? How does it inform your concepts?
My embroidering these scraps of paper, cardboard signs, and torn envelopes are attempts—sad, failing attempts—to preserve these cast-off moments and pieces. In thinking about the longevity of the work, I'm curious now about the action of failure as it is tied to temporality. I rip sheets, spill coffee on notes, and lose things that I myself have salvaged. My process seems both rooted in and destined for failure. Likewise, and like an unmotivated sidekick, slowness is deeply important to me. Looking at the last question (see above), it seems vital to add that the embroidery is a way for me to continue drawing in one of the slowest ways I can imagine. Repeating, redrawing, rewriting, replicating, tracing, reworking, removing. Rewarding repeating?

Although this is a lengthy quote, it seems really nice to add here. In her essay "Notes Towards a History of Scaffolding" Susan Mitchell writes (speaking on/as Canaletto, perhaps?),
Looking at my work, you will think I am in love with solidity and permanence, with space. Well, look again. I am in love with time, with the ephemeral. My paintings are filled with flags and penants, with regalias and parades, with laundry lines strung with wash, with puppet shows that come and go. But mainly, my paintings are hung with scaffolds, my buildings encrusted and scabbed with work in progress. I am in love with everything that comes down—with plinths and stalks, with ropes and rigging, with fragile boats and sails and clouds. If you look long enough at my work, everything becomes a scaffold. Those shadows leaning up against a church, the delicate twigs of a tower and belfry—in an hour or two they will be gone. And that night scene at S. Pietro di Castello—night too is a scaffold, and when it comes down, day goes up. What I'd most love to do is fashion an architecture of impermanence. I'll make a cottage out of a flight of stairs and put in broken fencing, casks, and surplus timbers. I'll turn everything into scaffolding—and sign it Canaletto.

The following is an excerpt from David Antin's "A Sad Story" (from Selected Poems: 1963-1973), which I've cited in the past and can't really put my finger on, but seems to veer really closely to the amount of permanence I'm interested in preserving or releasing from the works.
In this house nothing was ever thrown away. Theyd found a mass of doctors prescriptions pinned together in separate sheafs, some from twenty years before. The familys medical history could have been pieced together with the help of these scraps. There was also in the upstairs bedroom a small white cabinet containing vials of patent medicine, boxes of pills both new and old. They stumbled among old trunks, packing cases, pieces of furniture that had been brought up here because they were no more use. In a corner there was a childs highchair with colored knobs on either side of the tray and a rocking horse without tail or mane.

Art for a cause or just consequential?
I've been fighting with this question for the past few days, and still don't have an answer I can totally get behind. In fact, the question (which is great, by the way) opens significant problems into the nature of the work and for me, the nature of drawing as a social practice. So, here are a few thoughts that in re-reading them seem more fragmentary and questioning that I had originally thought or hoped:
What cause? Is *just consequential* enough of a cause? Is there space for both, or is this situation even oppositional? Just consequential may be the best cause for this type of work, or perhaps the overlooked space I've been searching for all along.
My reading (one version, at least) of this question is that by *just consequential*, the suggestion is that the content of the pieces and of the act of embroidering may be not directly (or immediately) linked, or rather that if they are linked, the consequence of the act of embroidering the piece in turn programs and fixes the meaning of that piece, instead of the piece having a certain intrinsic meaning (or cause) that is then amplified with the embroidery. Is this right?
Embroidery places its own heavy (historical and physical) content onto the pieces; what may be mapped onto the works regardless of what they might say may be different than what they're trying to say on their own. A love letter that's been embroidered by hand means something different than a love letter scrawled in pencil, but maybe one is more flawed, maybe not.
With the newer works (cardboard panhandling signs from Seattle, a city where I also teach a course on cultural landscape studies that looks deeply at everyday practices, the built environment, and homeless communities), the notion of art for a cause has become more pressing, pedagogically and personally; people want to know what is being projected (originating) from me, and what is my stake in the discussion. It's an open question.

How do your decide to display individual works? (On wall/on floor)
This, for me, actually answers the last question better than the answer I wrote for the last question. The display of the works is informed by a number of factors; the content of the pieces involved in the installation display and the environment/context of the work being the most vital (or frontal) concerns. For the exhibition at
Portland Art Museum , I proposed an installation of the cardboard and plastic signs (I want to say there were eleven total) where the signs would be placed directly on the floor underneath vitrines belonging to the museum; vitrines that had other, past lives, that had housed and protected other objects, been a part/apart of something else. In using the vitrines, I wanted to activate receptacles that already had fixed missions in the museum, as institutional critique on one level and security for very delicate work on another level, offered simultaneously. Either/or/and. At the same time, amassing the plexiglass boxes in an arrangement that allowed for people to walk through and around the whole installation was designed to reflect itinerant communities, giving the sense of a city, invisible (sorta) and organic. The placement of the signs on the floor also intended to draw a close connection to the locations that they were found. Most of the pieces came from a few block radius of downtown Seattle, near the Denny Bridge.

Can you talk at greater length about your collaborations and where this is leading your ideas?
Collaboration with my wife,
Shannon Eakins, is becoming a central aspect of my current work. In the last few years, our projects have led us both to odd, foreign territory, and the works we've been developing together have aspects of both our individual practices but become a hybrid, something entirely different and more complex, more involved, more difficult than anything we have taken on independently. It's amazing, and I'm really proud and excited by the directions we're heading. We just finished a three-part project for Tacoma Art Museum earlier this month, and this year we have some new projects on deck.
Fulcrum Gallery in Tacoma, we're developing an exhibition for April 2009 titled Phantasm Chasm that will act as a survey (of sorts) of our production to date. The project will be examining some of the gaps, or unclaimed, tattered histories, of Tacoma and will include new works that respond specifically to our time and perceptions of life in the City of Destiny. I've been reading many of the early essays from Murray Morgan , a historian whose writings mined many of the spaces where we're looking and who spent a good amount of time in Tacoma as the bridge tender on the 11th Street Bridge (now named Murray Morgan Bridge), which we can see from our apartment.

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