Found objects captured, repurposed in different ways for joint exhibition
New Zealand poet and anthropologist Michael Jackson is known for the way each of his endeavors impacts the other. He also believes that there is no such thing as an objective observer. Rather, one's personal history and predispositions impact one's observations, and thus the recording and sharing of them.
That Phil Adams and Shelley Bird's collaborative exhibition, “Accidental Anthropology: Discovering Meaning in the Discarded and Overlooked,” is similar in title to Jackson's memoir “The Accidental Anthropologist” is, well, accidental. But it seems to this objective observer that the pair shares Jackson's comfort with the intersection of art and culture. Whether Adams and Bird also share Jackson's opinions on impartiality is a conversation that might be best had at the Ohio Art League's X Space gallery, where “Accidental Anthropology” will be on exhibition through the end of June. (An artists' reception is planned for 7-9 p.m. Friday, May 11, at the Franklinton space.)
Both local artists are collectors. Bird's assemblages are crafted from found items. (“I feel like a bit of an explorer,” Bird said in a phone interview.) A photographer, Adams' collection is perhaps less tactile but certainly carries no less weight, socially speaking.
“I started photographing ordinary things,” Adams said of daily early-morning walks he takes near his South Side home, in particular during the summer, when he's on break from his job as a teacher. “A lot of times people pass by places or through neighborhoods without taking into consideration what's there. I started to think about the rise and fall of neighborhoods, about the work being done on Parsons Avenue in particular, and what happens to people when neighborhoods change, the people who live in those places, to their stories.”
“There's definitely anthropology in finding and making,” Bird said, adding that her walks often yield something to which she responds, “I can make something out of that.”
“I can be inspired by the object itself or maybe just its shape,” Bird added. “I'm generally repurposing [the items] for a new story, something that often comes out of things that I'm thinking about.”
For the exhibition, the pair began working far in advance, bringing their individual work to the conversation to see what kinds of commonalities could be found in the stories they were telling, despite their disparate mediums and styles.
“The works are grouped together so as to create a cohesive statement,” Adams said.
Neither would offer details as to what the stories are, preferring to allow the viewer space to interpret the work.