The work of Mary Mattingly suggests an undeniable suspension of disbelief, a leap of some brand of faith, but with eyes open. Collectively, her projects speak to both volition, and burden, and a surprising acknowledgement of that conundrum. Her binds and bundles emphasize the mess we are in…but her performances, assemblages and installations are in no way brooding, or wallowing. Instead, as she traces a path from origin to use, to dump, her gaze is futuristic, what can be ultimately imagined beyond all that, finding solutions.
Her work and ideas are striking, and precipitate a change in consciousness…to foresee a place that doesn’t pretend to be utopia, but instead offers an alternative way of being, of thinking, understanding that is dependent on the steps we take and the stark reality of our choices made or unmade, unadorned. What are we willing to sacrifice in the process to ultimately secure a sustainable way of life and respectful co-existence?
During her residency, Mattingly travelled to the Upper Peninsula, exploring its terrain and cobalt mines. She thrifted for glassware and other goods, visited trash sites, met with metal workers, and airplane mechanics. She engaged with students at U-M from diverse departments collecting personal objects for a sacred burial on the Diag, a related project to her installation in the gallery. Each workshop included the ritual of tea and cake, storytelling, drawing, but also 3D imaging which became part of her digital archives. There was never any sense that she placed more value on one object or another, or one ritual, but rather, and all became part of a bundle.
In preparation for her gallery installation, the cumulative cobalt hue of her studio at U-M Stamps School which was comprised of her forgings…blue glass, blue powder, blue fabrics, blue pipes, was both infatuating and intoxicating. Scales and diagrams, photographs taken on location, and a series of carefully orchestrated suspensions and pulleys all seemed to potentially lead us to some peculiar and certain destination, a Eureka moment of an exalted explorer, a promise. Perhaps the true brilliance was the way everything seemingly converged, only to reveal loose ends, connections and disconnections, a network of tangents, a mesh of turns, the various routes of mazes. The work Mary Mattingly creates can only exist because, although she fully recognizes the impossibility of things, she insists on residing in the realm of the possible. —Amanda Krugliac, Curator at U-M Institute for the Humanities