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Atelier 2008 pt.2: John Stoney

I was really impressed with John Stoney‘s sculptures on view at the
Blanton‘s triennial faculty showcase, Atelier 2008. Technically, his
work is faultless, and his choice of materials (petrified wood, cow
manure) shows a commendable commitment to every aspect of his
You Can't Go Home Again (detail), John Stoney, 2005

You Can’t go Home Again (2005)
is a majestic scale mode of Niagara Falls, a site Stoney chose for the
prospective "beaching" of Moby Dick while attempting to go west, from the New England  of the novel to the  Northwest
. The title is ironically literal when the physical
impossibility of an upstream wade through Niagara Falls by a gigantic
whale is considered but poetically metaphorical when considering the
incredible differences in chronological scale between the perennial
rush of arctic water through a geological unit of chronology that has
shaped Niagara Falls and the almost laughably short period of a
creature’s life (and shorter time it takes for it to die).
The Romance of the Sea (detail), John Stoney, 1998

The Romance of the Sea
(1998), a glass vitrine containing a model cast from compressed cow
manure, shows a vessel sinking in a battered seascape. Somehow, and
this might be a projection, Stoney’s work feels like a deeply sardonic
but melancholy ode to the American Dream, or more accurately, the
American Myth, and the literal sea of bullshit (especially in this
sculpture) it seems to be sinking into. But his work isn’t preachy at
all; the beautiful construction and sublime, effortless elegance of his
sculptures manage to sidestep any tedious moralizing.

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2 Responses

  1. Ivan L

    Yeah duh Niagara Falls is not the Northwest Passage. Thanks for pointing it out. I was thinking of things in the opposite direction!

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