Mean and Sneaking

Mean and Sneaking

Mean and Sneaking 
April 4-May 2, 2010 
FiveMyles Gallery, Brooklyn, NY 

B Wurtz 
Mai Braun 

Elizabeth Adams
Michael DeLucia 
Laura Braciale 
Amy Yao 
Drew Shifflett 
Jeff Feld 
Matthew Lusk 
Matt Callinan 
Elaine Angelopoulos 
Jenny Bevill 

Some of you, we all know, are poor, find it hard to live, are sometimes, as it were, gasping for breath….It is very evident what mean and sneaking lives many of you live…always on the limits …a very ancient slough….” 

Henry David Thoreau: Where I have Lived and What I have Lived For, Economy 

In Thoreau’s influential work Economy, he advocates for a life away from conventional social and material mores. In part of his account of the bleakness woven into common society, he describes the condition, caused by poverty, where people are forced to live in mean and sneaking ways, where promises get made that can’t be kept, where “I’ll pay you later” is an empty guarantee. It is not a deceptive nature, or deliberate cunning that brings about this inveigling, but a need to live and progress despite a limited ability to give back. 

When Thoreau advocates for Economy, he does so with faith that people need not join the cycle of needing and taking, but can follow a life aside and alone, where resourcefulness and self-sufficiency allow ample contentment with available resources. In Thoreau’s case Nature is an alternative and providing companion. But Thoreau presents an alternately peevish and gloomy attitude. Not everyone is so ready to head for the hills. 

The artists in Mean and Sneaking borrow select pages from Thoreau…using what they can find at hand, at home and around to make a living and art. They are awake to the potential of found and conventionally wasted material presented by a society relatively unconcerned with its excess. They make their art from accessible bits and pieces, leftover commercial wares, and common discarded debris. They are self-sufficient and scrappy, but they celebrate and elevate the material available to them. Their life on the outskirts is festive, lively and communal. The work they make provides an obvious reward. In this way our title becomes tongue in cheek, there is nothing mean or sneaking about the end result. 

This exceptional exhibit showcases twelve very diverse artists and their intellectually rigorous work. Whether using textiles and cotton based material (Elaine Angelopoulos, Jennifer Bevill, Drew Shiflett), or construction material (Jeff Feld, Michael DeLucia, Amy Yao, Laura Braciale, Matt Callinan), or common household goods (B Wurtz, Mai Braun, Matthew Lusk, Elizabeth Adams); the artists are alert to the creative possibilities inherent in freely found material. They are most inspired by what is close at hand and they exploit the everyday world to potent effect. 

Vicki Sher