In the Presence of Memory 2014 – 2016

I grew up in an area of Pennsylvania dominated by the steel industry, and have long been interested in industrial architecture as an expression of cultural history.  “In the Presence of Memory” explores the architectural vestiges of a far more ancient industry: agriculture. The disappearing vernacular architecture of barns in rural Pennsylvania reveals their varied European lineages: specific structural elements reflect the building traditions of the home countries of the immigrant families who built them. A typology of these barn structures bears witness to centuries of migration. But what once seemed a stable and permanent destination is now in flux, as the family farm gives way to industrial farming, and farmland is converted to residential or commercial developments. For the past year I have been traveling throughout my home state to document these agricultural structures: abandoned, re-purposed, or – occasionally – still in use.  These photographic images have become the source material for this body of work. Using industrial felt (manufactured in Pennsylvania) as a substrate, I silk-screen images of architectural details of the barns using industrial pigments such as steel, iron and copper. I paint each piece individually using oil and cold wax, and cut into the felt, echoing the empty and thatched spaces of the often-dilapidated structures I have photographed. I “patch” these cut areas with colored sections of serigraph negatives, mimicking the splashes of incongruous color on the weathered surfaces that have been repaired again and again. The colors, forms and shapes of the felt panels all refer to the original structures; even in their abstraction, these paintings document the vanishing rural industrial landscape.