STACY LYNN SMITH
Humans have a curious connection to the material world. Our hunger to own objects leads to mass consumerism, obsessive collecting, and inevitably to landfills bursting with outdated devices and passé fashions. In my work I explore how meanings and identities are informed by objects and how actions can be recorded through remnant materials. Items that have been discarded draw my special attention. A medical bracelet left at a bus terminal, a hand-made protest poster abandoned after a rally, a child’s pink plastic hairclip - every item speaks unheard volumes. They silently confess of lives lived and miles traveled, of paths crossed and missed connections.

It is my instinct to collect and contemplate these objects, like brutally honest open-air time capsules that inevitably lead to more questions than answers. How are identities curated and imagined through materials? How do abandoned belongings affect understandings of public and private spaces? In what manner do ephemera inform impressions of history? Knowledge based on remnant materials are partial truths, blanks filled in with imagination. Often the manner in which this fragmentary knowledge is institutionalized and organized, such as in Western natural history museums, speaks more to social biases than to the spaces, events, and populations that are attempting to be understood. How can this observation be expressed? Can the presentation of alternative narratives lead toward a more empathetic future? Could it potentially catalyze a reexamining of pre-conceived ideas? These are the questions that continue to fuel my studio practice and lead my research through readings, activities and interactions, both in real-life and on social media.

I investigate these topics through collaboration, collection and print media, looking for methods by which to re-imagine and re-interpret material evidence. I am interested in both social practice and participatory art, while remaining dedicated to the act of creating physical objects. Print media are particularly suited to my art making. Through print I can record and disseminate. Often I look to screen printing and letterpress to apply text to my images and books while employing intaglio, and soon lithography, to record impressions of found objects. My most recent work has involved remnant materials from Providence, Rhode Island bus terminals as well as ephemera and deserted materials from local protests since the election results of November 8th, 2016. I often employ call-and-response tactics in my interactive works. This can take the form of physical participation, such as in my recent sticker book, “NO! Signs of Protest” where the reader is invited to take a sticker and leave a written statement in the physical book. Other interactions take place in digital space. For instance, for my “Potential Objects” series I utilized social media to pose the question, - what is this object? The responses were then included in the final work to highlight varied perceptions and narratives based on a single impression of an object.

Collecting, reflection and interaction with local and diverse populations are important elements of my work. I am drawn to the history of the encyclopedic collections contained within the Cabinets of Curiosity, or wunderkammers, of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Examples of bodies of work I look to range from Joseph Cornell’s whimsical boxes, Marcel Duchamp’s sharply critical Boite-en-valise, Claes Oldenburg’s quirky and smart Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing, David Wilson’s confounding Museum of Jurassic Technologies, Mark Dion’s astounding digs, Phoebe Washburn’s ecologically minded installations, Fred Wilson’s insightful re-ordering of museum collections and Walid Raad’s profound explorations of truth and fiction. Readings such as Foucault’s “The Order of things: An Archeology of Human Sciences”, Clair Bishop’s “Artificial Hells” and the essay collection, “Global Activism: Art and Conflict in the 21st Century” are of great influence to me. I seek to marry the narrative and contemplative tools of art making with the investigative and rigorous methods of printmaking and science.