MARY SWEENEY

ARTIST'S STATEMENT
My purpose in making art is to evoke empathy in the viewer by tapping into fundamental human experiences: of being scared, being alone, being a victim, and being an aggressor. 

The physical materials I use are most often earthy matter such as clay and graphite, and reference a genetic memory identifying with the landscape. Concern for our relationship with the planet is always present in my work as a generative theme.

The images I choose to work with stand in for the human figure, and allude to contemporary social concerns of power and vulnerability. Tiny houseflies and small birds assume human proportions and posture. In a series of large charcoal drawings of dead flies, the emotional content is not mournful so much as alone and tired. The ceramic birds appear in postures that suggest loss and defenselessness.

The installation piece titled “Respite” is a construction of a bed placed in an abandon granite query in Barre, Vermont. It is meant to prompt the viewer to question the two poles of the Romantic view of nature:  as a sacrosanct external world and a self-sufficient inner experience. Our notion of nature as a pristine wilderness, unsullied by civilization’s polluting presence, has its origins in the late 18th century. Nature seemed to offer a respite from the transgressions of so-called civilized society, then embarking on the initial phases of industrialization.

The problem with this Romantic conception is that nature is set on a pedestal, something forever destined to remain “over there,” somehow separate from our daily lives.  It marks the difference between “us” and “it.” The presence of beds in the query confronts the viewer with this disjunction, and attempts to bridge the divide by creating a dialog between the outdoor space and a private space in which we all seek refuge every night.  The bed is meant to offer a space for reflection on the future of dwelling together in a vulnerable world.

I want my work to be intimate and familiar. I know a piece is complete when I have imbued it with meaning and yet avoided both sentimentality and irony.

www.maryjsweeney.info

CV