Steve Parmelee: "Assemblages 2"

Exhibition Website

Jun 25 2016 - Oct 2 2016

In Steve's words:

The answer to my most commonly asked question is “50/50.” Half of the time I find an interesting object that leads to the story. The other half of the time, I imagine story concepts then go looking for fitting ingredients.

My process begins with filling shelves and drawers with worn, found objects, and organizing them by shape or original use. Much of my found material comes from estate sales, flea markets, and thrift stores. Onsite estate sales are where the real interesting bits are found because it feels like I make acquaintances with the deceased who can only speak to me through the keepsakes in junk drawers and cellars. An estate sale can be a spiritual place as well as a treasure trove of everyday relics, and may often be capsules of a bygone era.

I started seeing the sacred in the discarded, and felt compelled to find an after-life for what might seem completely worn-out. I draw inspiration from the patinas that build up on everyday utensils, the wear and erosion that affect tools, and the way an object is marked by the ages. I’m always on the hunt for interesting artifacts to use – ones that have interest but are too far gone for utility or too damaged to be collectible. I will then intuitively gather small piles together onto a table arranged in potential assemblages. I continue to invite interesting objects to my work bench, bringing various compatible items onto the pile, guided by a developing story or emotion, trusting the finished piece will convey a meaningful narrative.

Generational connections exist within these objects, handled by unknown past lives. I try to relate a concept or emotion in my work, playing off of the frailty, or durability, of the found objects and the undercurrent they bring. The inclusions can strike an individual, or even collective memory. I believe there is often overlooked beauty in the ordinary, and a worth in the discarded. While we may feel evolved beyond our ancestors’ everyday dilemmas, a weathered, seemingly century-old piece of contemporary artwork may be a reassuring reminder of the timelessness of the human condition.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

  • Mixed-media
  • American
  • Contemporary
  • Steve Parmelee

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