Thursday, September 17, 2015

With Corn as My Witness. Solo Exhibition Statement. University of Mount Union.

Post Card Image. Rain and Rubies. Oil on Canvas. 42x27 Inches. 2014.

 Because of genocide and cultural destruction of the Native Peoples of the Americas, the mythology of corn has been nearly lost. In our Western mythologies and traditions, the glories of the other grains are well known. The Bible would be an example of how wheat, an Old World grain, is heavily mythologized.
 This lack of mythology of corn has allowed us to immensely disrespect the grain, its complexities, history and power. And yet, we are a corn dependent nation. It has become a mere commodity to be bought, sold and manipulated. We consume massive amounts of corn through fuel, food and feed for our livestock. 332 million metric tons of corn are grown every year, with 130 million metric tons being converted into ethanol.
 However, when we step into a cornfield, we feel ourselves being submerged into history and mythology. We hear the whispers of the corn through the breeze as it rustles the long leaves. Go deep enough into a summer stand of corn, and you will swear you are being watched by someone or something, three rows over, just out of sight.
 My immigrant Slovak family had a cattle farm for several generations, where I spent many summers bailing hay and doing other farm work. We grew many acres of corn to feed the livestock. It seemed like everything that I did growing up, everything I experienced, was somehow related to corn. From long hours of hard labor out in the fields under the hot sun, to frigid winter days hunting for that big buck, corn was the one constant.
 As kids, we did crazy things like 'corning' where we threw handfuls of corn at cars, mobile homes and houses. When the grain hit any hard or metallic surface, it sounded like a shotgun blast.
 My teenage years were very difficult, as we often lived in or near poverty. I once asked a girl on a date and she turned me down. I was crushed, as only an artistic, overly sensitive country boy can be. I went out into a corn field to be alone, to soothe my hurt feelings, to try and rid myself of the blackness that was over taking me. As I walked, something glimmering caught my eye among the roots of the young corn. It was a perfect, beautiful arrowhead of a very rare type. I felt elated and I took it as a sign.  
 Corn has been the subject of my paintings for decades now. I love the repetitive qualities of the kernels, the planted stalks and the furrows. Exhibiting an amazing amount of colors, textures and structural features, the plant always keeps me mesmerized and excited. Corn's presence in the Ohio landscape is always profound and sublime for me. I've often found myself awestruck by a whitened, ripened cornfield in December as heavy, winter storm clouds tower above it.
 With the advent of the internet and digital technology, corn remains prominent in our collective vision. Can we ever go a day without corn making some headline in regards to genetic engineering, diet, economic policy or politics?  

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