Michael Shaughnessy:An Caoin Ardaigh
An Caoin Ardaigh (The Gentle Rise) was built in response to the space of the gallery and my personal vision regarding form and place. It is meant to be powerful without being overwhelming, in repose, quietly embracing. It is integrated into the space without being defined by it. Both place and thing simultaneously, it is the sense of presence that is my overwhelming concern. It is work that is meant to be felt as much as memory.
Rice University Art Gallery invited Michael Shaughnessy to create a site specific installation. The artist was supplied with photographs and a ground plan of the gallery. He began sketches for an idea that became fully formed only after he arrived at Rice and actually experienced the space. As an artist-in-residence for two weeks, Shaughnessy worked with over forty Rice students and members of the community to construct a wooden structure that was strung with baling twine, essentially creating a giant loom. Then, using a traditional method of weaving, hay was woven over the entire surface.
Shaughnessy's use of hay as a medium springs, in part, from its capacity to evoke powerful associations with food, bedding and shelter. His works also draw from his family heritage: for three generations, his mother's forebears were farmers, while his father's were architects. The notions of reuse and regeneration are integral to Shaughnessy's working processes and philosophy, and are inherent in the work itself. The structural elements get reused in other projects and the hay is used for feed or mulch.
Michael Shaughnessy lives in South Windham, Maine, with his wife and four sons. He has created numerous works for museums and galleries, including the Portland Museum of Art (Maine), the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (North Carolina), Exit Art (New York City) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago). This is the first time his work has been seen in the Southwest.