Maria Porges: Shortest Stories and Exhortations
April 1 - May 1, 2016
A complicated, lifelong relationship with the printed word lies behind my exploration of books as both physical material and subject matter. A current primary source—both for sculpture and for collages-- is the library left behind by my grandmother Mary Löw, a citizen of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire who avidly read many English classics translated indifferently into German. These unwanted volumes (printed in a Gothic script now legible to few) are destined for landfill, so their new life as art: whether used as books or as fragments of illustration and text, functions as reclamation of their value and, at the same time, serves as an uncomfortable recognition of the decreasing role of books in a digital media world.
Each collage in the Shortest Stories series, containing a mixture of Old World images and text and figures from 60’s readers, bits of sheet music and other random ephemera, is titled with the entirety of an abbreviated fiction. Selected from 100 Shortest Stories, each of these pieces of writing represents a mixture of memoir and fantasy, evoking styles ranging from detective novels to fairy tales to pulpy romance bodice-rippers. The aggregation of images in each work on paper is intended to represent a complementary reading, rather than serve as a literal illustration.
The origin of the Exhortations lies in a fascination with words hidden inside of other words, like secret weapons or ghosts. Each debossed phrase found on these cut and reformed fragments of books represents an injunction to action of some kind. The first word must be contained within the second, which almost always results in something eccentric (slug lugubriously; harm charmingly; sob soberly). Like the contents of the books out of which the sculptures themselves are made, these phrases suggest disordered meanings and lost ideas—or, maybe, jokes to which we only know the punch line, having forgotten the rest.