Artist Mary Mattingly has developed an intriguing creative methodology that integrates photography with aspects of sculpture, installation, and performance. Drawing upon the work of whimsical dreamers and recalling failed utopian projects, yet intermixing Fortune 500 corporate logos with jaw-dropping landscapes, Mattingly’s work engages conflict with the systems of technology and consumerism. Rigorous in its research, these multi-form projects begin with the imagination of a possible scenario and evolve as ad hoc solutions to the circumstances of living and sustaining. With Nomadographies Mattingly proposes a world returned to nomadic roots, following a peripatetic population constantly on the move. In as much as the protagonists in Mattingly’s photographs are related to pioneers of the American frontier, they are also products of a Cold War-era bunker mentality. This spirit is embodied in the recurring image of Mattingly’s “karts.” Bicycles piled precariously high with scavenged cardboard boxes and bound with bungee cords, these mobile shelters represent a Sisyphean struggle with the remnants of modern society. Literally crashing out of one of the gallery walls, a Kart seems a relic from another—ambiguous—time.
Mattingly has also produced a parallel series of images, The Anatomy of Melancholy, which clarify the methodology in the composite tableaux for which she is known. Operating in a documentary mode, these photographs—of abandoned missile silos, a biosphere, Ted Kaczynski’s abandoned cabin, and half-submerged derelict boats—might be considered research documents from Mattingly’s own frequent travels around the globe. As the representation of a world operating somewhere between obsolescence and post-tech ingenuity, Nomadographies may be considered as a sort of travelogue, projecting forth into the future as it recalls our recent past.
The exhibition at Robert Mann Gallery coincides with the launch of Mary Mattingly’s Waterpod™ project. Conceptualized and designed by Mattingly, the Waterpod™ is a floating, sculptural, eco-habitat designed for the rising tides. It will launch in May to navigate the waters of New York Harbor, docking at several Manhattan piers on the Hudson River before continuing onward. As a sustainable, navigable living space, the Waterpod™ serves as a model for new living possibilities, DIY technologies, art and design. Mattingly and other artists will live on the Waterpod™, hosting public events, exhibitions, and lectures.
Nomadographies is Mattingly’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. Most recently she was shortlisted for the inaugural Prix Pictet and had a two-person exhibition with Mie Kjaergaard at Standpoint in London. Mattingly is also included in the forthcoming exhibition Trouble in Paradise: Examining Discord Between Nature and Society at the Tucson Museum of Art. In 2008 she was included in group exhibitions at the Palais de Tokyo, the Neuberger Museum, and the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography. Updates on the Waterpod™ Project can be tracked at www.thewaterpod.org.