Artists’ essays are a mixed bag, some are awkward but authentic, some are bizarre and others are supremely pretentious screeds by an individual trying to write their ticket to the top of the art tree. Even so, now and again, an essay arrives which layers a sheen of words atop the art. Both glow from the contact. That is the case with Chicago artist Eric Mirabito’s essay below that accompanies images of his art. At first we thought this had to be edited for the web but we finally decided that it has to be enjoyed, every word of it. This is part one. Mirabito explains his signifiers but without subtracting from their visual potency. His text accompanies images of his works below. It’s a great read, so give it time.
“The reality of these events does not consist in the fact that they occurred but that first of all, they were remembered, and, second, that they are capable of finding a place in a chronologically ordered sequence.” — H. White (1980)
We are susceptible to the effects of signifiers even at a young age. My fascination lies with the faculties of the brain and the way in which we catalogue our memories. The visual history of our memories and our processes of recognition are theories at the core of the content of my work.
This sets up a condition where a conversation can take place. The thoughts begin to grow and take shape and one finds themselves immersed in memory. Thoughts are triggered by the objects but are not necessarily about the reality of them.
In the studio I have chosen to work with objects that have specific meaning to me. The connection to the object may be from the early history of my life such as a childhood memory or a recent experience. Or, the object may have no direct literal significance but rather acts as a trigger for a memory. The objects are orchestrated or composed in groups and staged on other components. By placing objects in relation to one another it is not my intention to create a narrative that will have a linear read to it. I am interested in the more liminal qualities of the objects, their surface, color and physical relationship to one another. These less-overt qualities hold the possibility for meaning. My interest lies in the meaning of things, the imbedded information. There is a difference between what the concept of an object is and what the object’s meaning is. The concept of an object is a broad understanding of the thing as it exists in the world. Meaning is something personal and is the effect related to an experience.
Eric Mirabito is an East Chicago sculptor who works in metal, wood and ceramics. His day job is running the metals workshop for Theaster Gates. Eric Mirabito (1979, Norwich NY, United States) attended the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, New York before transferring to the School of The Art Institute of Chicago in 2001. Just after graduating from SAIC, Eric began working alongside ceramic artist Ruth Duckworth. He received his MFA from Alfred University, Alfred NY.
Above image: Work by Eric Mirabito in painted wood, clay and glaze, 2014, 12″ H x 24″ W x 7″ D.
I was five years old and the street in front of my house was being torn up to be repaved. School was out for the summer so I had all the time in the world to watch the bulldozers and dump trucks thundering through the work day. When the workers were all gone at the end of the day I would jump down into freshly-excavated earth, I was on an archeological dig. Rocks, bits of twisted metal and some roots were the standard relics. One day I found an old rusty pistol, the perfect cowboy six-shooter. The gun looked as if it had been buried there forever, the wood in the handle had rotted away to leave a grip shaped loop of iron. The rust was so thick that the revolver no longer revolved, but the barrel was still intact. It was a gun nonetheless. I was absolutely thrilled.
History is a fascination. Not history that you find in an encyclopedia necessarily but, history that is a hybrid of imagination and facts; history that ties me to an experience. Whose gun was this? What was it involved in? How long has it been here? As a child, I was interested in the idea of the pistol, not just the physical object. The pistol was a signifier. I began to create story after story of gunslingers in my neighborhood weaving their way in and out between the single family homes on my block. The pistol as an object was a catalyst. It stirred my imagination; I found myself enthralled.
As an object is encountered, my mind automatically searches the Rolodex of my memory. I search through this data to find an experience in my life that somehow relates to the “object” occupying my attention. This searching filters the experience of the object on my own terms. I come to view this “object” through the lens of my personal history.
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