Fresh Off the Turnip Truck
November 6, 2010 through January 20, 2011
Louisiana State Museum
632 Dumaine Street, Madame John’s Legacy
Tues – Sunday 10am – 4:30 pm
New Orleans has always been a place that attracts artists from other parts of the country and world. That influx, which has continued—arguably under exceptional circumstances—in the last five years, is the topic of this exhibition. Fresh Off the Turnip Truck examines the work of accomplished young artists who are all, to a degree, recent arrivals in the city. Michael Pajon is one of these artists.
Shovel Me Under
We were all archaeologists and historians of sorts once. We sifted through our family’s belongings and old pictures. Questions naturally arose for our parents, grandparents and ourselves: who is this? When did you go here? Was it really like this? Being entranced by these objects and images, being inquisitive about our origins is something that we all share. Asking the questions and finding their answers is integral to building our own identities.
As the son of an immigrant to Chicago from Colombia, South America who entered this country in the dizzy hopeful atmosphere of the 1960’s and a good Irish Catholic girl raised on Chicago’s bustling blue collar south side, my own identity is inextricably linked to that of the city. My experiences are the product of the integration and movement of Chicago’s populations, the artifacts that groups of people have left behind in the still identifiable ethnic neighborhoods, and the points where cultural identities have overlapped and melded. These experiences and memories peer through my Standard American collage work as well as my print work.
Standard American explores the natural intrigue of finding and handling an object to consider its history. This group of work contemplates the most humble of human remains: old matchbooks from junk shops, antique postcards and books, sheet music from my great aunts collection, cracker jack toys that belonged to my mother, and other objects once treasured, lost and resurrected. By collaging these elements amid drawings and other media, I create small relationships to arrive at a whole image. Like delicate strands of DNA, these tiny pieces, in combination hold the key to unique identity. This identity reflects the best and worst of Americans, the common as well as the fantastic. These inevitable contradictions are the foundation on which identity is built.
Printmaking is a crossroads where graphic art and storytelling intersect perfectly. This body of print work captures a narrative created through observation of the places and people who inhabit my own city as well as places that I have visited. Some pieces pay homage to the early influence I found in the works of Edward Hopper. These pieces explore an urban folklore populated with solitary and distant figures. Others are informed by the quintessentially American writings of Flannery O’Conner and the raw and dark storytelling of musicians such as Nick Cave and Johnny Cash, and present a cast of characters in a rural landscape who parallel their counterparts in the urban myth. This work allows the viewer to fill in the blanks in the time line with a sequential nature set in motion by my love for the graphic novel and comic book. The printed images capture a mood that invites one to make assumptions through the tensions ingrained in the archetypical identities, and then, upon further observation, to surprise oneself by noticing the depth of the characters beyond stereotype and the sympathetic nature of the characters’ situations. We are always finding ourselves in the faces of others.
The artifacts and images employed in this work evoke a sense of place and history. They entice the viewer to slow down and take in a landscape of information and clues. The work offers a roadmap of an America that seems both imagined and real, a blending of true artifact and an artificial past, a fleeting glimpse and a memory not quite placed.
Born 1979, Chicago, IL
2003 Bachelor of Fine Arts, School of the Art Institute, Chicago, IL
2009, Nau-haus Art Space, Houston, TX
2010, Get it together show, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
2009, Ammo Art Gallery, New Orleans, LA
2008, Next Art Fair, Allegoric Space, Chicago, IL
2008, Alchemy; Collage and Assemblage, Santa Fe, NM
2007, Aqua Art Fair, Adam Baumgold Gallery, Miami, FL
2007, Bridge London, Allegoric Projects, London, UK
2007, April Group show, Drawn to the Edge, Adam Baumgold Gallery, NY, NY
2007, Kitsch ‘n’ Sync Group Show, La Luz De Jesus, Los Angeles, CA
2007-08, All the Tribes of Birds Sang, Illinois State Museum, Chicago, IL
2006, December Group show, Ann Nathan Gallery, Chicago, IL
2006, Nova Art Fair, Big Cat Press, Chicago, IL
2006, Printer’s Proofs, Heaven Gallery, Chicago, IL
2006, Art LA Santa Monica, Linda Warren Gallery, Chicago, IL
Mr. Morris Stephen, Cousin of Grandpa Jacob