Marking the first exhibition in a series that is designed to give an extended public forum to artists who have participated in the Captiva studio residency program of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Thumbs Up For the Mothership features individual works as well as a collaborative installation by New Orleans conceptual artist Dawn DeDeaux and Alabamian self-taught sculptor and musician Lonnie Holley. Deeply influenced by their southern roots, both artists mine the landscapes around them for found objects (a nod to Rauschenberg’s “combines”) and engage in dialogues around issues of ecology and social justice. DeDeaux and Holley firmly believe that through art, they can address these issues and “help heal the mothership.” Both DeDeaux and Holley frequently experiment with mixed media and incorporate performance into their practice — ranging from totemic found objects and photography to experimental blues music and Afrofuturist philosophies. These artists share a deeply held sense of resoluteness and optimism that infuses their art. Holley states: “There are so many rocks and so many broken stones and so many nails and sticks and weeds and debris and garbage and trash. We have to plow and mine the worst things on this earth to make them better, and to make us better, so we can show the world: I can handle it. I can deal with it. I can live with it. I can go on.”
A daughter of New Orleans, Dawn DeDeaux mines the landscape around her to engage in dialogues around issues of ecology and social justice. She channels scientist Stephen Hawking’s postulation that the Earth won’t survive in one hundred years and offers up a symbolic plan for escape, an installation that begins with a broken Southern Gothic column and features prints depicting looming figures in flowery spacesuits. Together with artist Lonnie Holley, “Thumbs Up for the Mothership” resurrects hope from despair, while giving the mothership a big thumbs up.
Elements from DeDeaux's series Space Clowns depicts looming figures in flowery or fiery spacesuits — new uniforms for the future.
Holley's works are built of found objects and function as three-dimensional sketches for ideas and stories. Just as the poetics and patina of found materials are key for Holley, so are the politics they unearth.
Broken But Still Strong incorporates Robert Rauschenberg's old cement mixer, while honoring Holley's grandmother who was part Cree and Cherokee, who taught him to respect the earth and recycle.
A broken-down piano in a corner has a figurative quality to it — depicting a musician that seemingly exploded due to the voice and weight of humanity.
Major exhibition support is provided by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Barr Foundation, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
All photos by David Dashiell