“American Relic” — Lou Shields
October 11th, 2014 – December 20th, 2014
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“American Relic” is a group of work that represents a seemingly mythical place I like to refer to as “The Old Country”. I grew up outside of a small town in rural Illinois. When I was a child, I would play in old barns, farmhouses and more. I remember the smell, the feel of the rough-cut barn wood, the iron hinges and unknowingly, that character of the architecture. I also remember being surrounded by antiques that my parents collected. As I got older and left the area, I noticed that each year, more of these sacred spaces seem to vanish. A property might foreclose and the bank would demolish the 200 year old farmhouse to make room for something new or a storm might come through and blow down the old rickety barn out back. Many of these places are now long gone as pavement was laid over former cow pastures and cornfields to make room for parking lots and big box stores.
This really struck me. For many, these old structures are a nuisance. They are no longer in use and have not been properly maintained. The wood is rotting, dried out and slowly decaying. I wanted to draw these structures, record them for my own memory and maybe yours too. I think there is a major reflection on contemporary American Culture in the way these old buildings have been maintained. It seems the American Dream has become clouded with Consumerism, Materialism and the roots of our past are losing foothold. I learned to respect the way these buildings were constructed.
As I travel the United States on tour to play music I try to get off of the major slab highway and seek out what remains of our “Old Country”. My subject is Americana, and I seek out old barns, farm houses, tractors, trucks, gas stations, grocery stores, shacks, etc. Anything that still stands, but only has a short time left until it ultimately falls. Most of the work in this group was done on the road as I put together a portable studio to take with as I travel.
By doing this, I am reminded of the past, and of a time when DIY was not an alternative way to get things done – it was a way of life. When small business was the norm. I am grateful to have visited many places where like-minded people are learning from the positive aspects of our past. It is an adventure every time, and I feel very fortunate to have seen these places. It is also a great privilege to share these works in this exhibit.