Mary Mattingly, PNCA's Feldman Gallery 1241 NW Johnson, through June 25
"I believe wearable homes will be a necessity in the future," said artist Mary Mattingly, seated in front of a small gathering at PNCA's studios. "They will have pockets for your medications and artificial arms so you don't have to actually touch others"
Part science fiction novel and part political critique, Mattingly's work explores a world that is both bleak and alluring. Her current exhibit at PNCA's Feldman Gallery utilizes photography, film, and installation, touching on the related themes of corporate monopolization, globalization, and the increasing atomization of the individual. "Nomads," "island builders," and "survivors" wander desolate landscapes of sand and water, crafting strange technological machines in homage to a consumer society that has defeated them. A lone figure--draped in one of Mattingly's flowing wearable homes--traverses a watery infinity like a zealous pilgrim with no destination, or sets up a make-shift satellite phone for a conversation with some distant, automated voice.
The PNCA exhibit is a homecoming of sorts for the artist, who graduated from the school in 2002 before moving to Brooklyn, NY. Her website ( www.marymattingly.com) serves as a virtual decoder ring, collecting vocabulary words, symbols, and products, all of which drive home the homogenous existence we will all soon live. Mattingly couples her "message" with a sense of wonder and a very tactile aesthetic. Her constructions--made of fabrics, cardboard, metal, and rubber tubing--have an attraction unto themselves. The future may be doomed, but apparently it still has a pretty great view.
PNCA is not Mattingly's only Portland connection. She has been collaborating with Paul Middendorf (creative director of Manifest Artistry, visual arts director of Disjecta) on the Lifeboat project. The two set up temporary islands or boats off the coast of major art fairs, where they curate mini-exhibits that "speak about changing borders in the USA, policies for immigration, nautical utopias, pirates, flags, and other symbols of limited realities." I've heard they also have a lot of fun.