Myth is to History
as History is to Myth
April 14 - June 4 // Gallery 2
The power of images to conflate history with myth is undeniable. Images have functioned in explicit and subtle ways to help shape who we are culturally, politically, and individually across cultures for centuries. Atlanta-based artist Shawn Campbell’s work in Act V: Myth is to History as History is to Myth uses the trope of the American cowboy to investigate how our sense of nationality and particularly the idea of American masculine identity has been built through photography, film, art and consumerism. Using humor, technology and constructed narratives, Campbell’s work exposes the facade of the American cowboy and its role in creating a powerful fantasy of ideal manhood.
Why the cowboy? According to Campbell “The American Cowboy has fine-tuned its image allowing for larger audiences to consume it. This centuries long calibration has allowed for the American Cowboy to embed itself within the historical cannon. The American Cowboy’s deep collection of manufactured stories has muddied the true history surrounding the myth, producing one of the most common contemporary allegorical figures despite its synthetic facade.” Take for example Campbell’s piece Buster. The base of the sculpture is built from discarded building materials to create a larger than life Marlboro cigarette box. This iconic object serves as a pedestal for a 3D printed copy of Frederic Remington’s famous Bronco Buster sculpture. The original bronze Remington sculpture is intrinsically tied to the American Presidency as it has been photographed in the oval office for decades across various administrations from Regan to Obama. By symbolically placing the pinnacle of American governmental power, the presidential office, atop an icon of American consumerism, Campbell illustrates the breadth and depth of the cowboy trope in American culture. The artist’s choice of found and readily available materials, highlights the constructed nature of the myth.
My hope for viewers of this show is to engage with this work and explore the historic and cultural narratives it reveals. I encourage you to think beyond the myth of the cowboy to identify other visual tropes in our culture. Art is not passive, it is a tool which can help shape identity and history. Learning to recognize the use of images to perpetuate a particular dogma allows us as viewers to subvert that power and begin to distill myth from history.
Annah Lee, Creative Director
Artist Talk // June 3, 2pm, free, register here
Shawn Campbell is an artist located in Atlanta, Georgia. He earned a BFA with a concentration in photography from The University of Akron and an MFA with a concentration in studio art from The University o fGeorgia. Campbell’s work engages with mythology, military, football, religion, propaganda, and government by exploring their threads while also weaving them together to form and uncover unexpected relationships. Borrowing from the aesthetics of Minimalism, Baroque, Pop Art, and Byzantine icontgraphy, Campbell’s work utilizes a variety of mediums including photography, sculpture, video, installation, and painting. The work is able to function in a broad and open manner due to its recognizable media and art-historical references, presenting questions and granting the viewer the opportunity to connect with the work openly.