On August 13th, Shane Bugbee presented his first art installation, at a tiny gallery space in Astoria Oregon. The multi-media conceptual installation represents a huge departure from all of the art he created before – in a career spanning 30 years. His work, normally visceral, angry, and Transgressive was in this installation moving, vulnerable, and accessible.
The installation, called ’From The Recliner: Between my feet and my heart, portraits of people taken by a sad person with his furry best friend on his mind’, appeared only for one day, but had an enormous effect on all those viewing it. Some left holding back tears, others openly sobbed, many people sat on the recliner or the sofa that were part of the exhibit for an extended period of time to take it all in. Still others enjoying the lighter side of the installation, chomped on Hershey bars, and following the instructions on the wall, discarded the wrapper right on the floor.
It also had a great effect on the artist, offering a cathartic exorcism of a great deal of pain and suffering. As the press release explains, “It deals with a two year period of depression and mourning suffered following the death of the artist’s dog Cheyenne. Shortly after her passing, the artist moved his living room around, unconsciously blocking the corner where his furry friend once lay upon her cushion.” Just weeks after the passing of Cheyenne, the artist’s wife and collaborator of 20 years, left to work outside the home for the first time in their marriage. This left the artist utterly alone and falling deeper and deeper into despair.
He tried to medicate himself with copious amounts of marijuana and chocolate, but this only served to sedate and paralyze him, gaining nearly a hundred pounds in the process. In a subconscious and accidental art project, “Shane began to photograph visitors from his recliner, pointing his camera in the exact location where his beloved Cheyenne once lay. The photos represent a stream of humanity, all seated on an old blue and green sofa in the artist’s living room. Visitors from as far as Texas, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh, as well as a number of local residents and Astorians, are photographed with and without their knowledge, framed between the feet of the artist who sits with his feet up in a recliner.”
The installation included more than 30 framed photos of people sitting on the sofa in the artist’s home. The expressions of the subjects often tense or curious, unaware of the photos being taken of them with the artist’s iPad. The recliner, the blue and green sofa, and the coffee table from the photos, all part of the installation. Cheyenne’s cushions took the spot behind the sofa on the back wall of the small, living room sized space. Atop the cushions a large photo of Cheyenne sat framed in a huge golden baroque style frame, the kind typically used for the works of Dutch Masters. The frame representing life in the artist’s eyes.
Above two videos looped on the wall next to each other, one featuring numerous clips of Cheyenne – wading in the Gulf of Mexico, rolling on her back, and frolicking in the mountains. The second video featured the artist’s wife making pies in their kitchen. They represent the various memories pulsing through the artist’s thoughts. Audio from both videos played, as well as an audio track of the artist reading his writings from the time just preceding and proceeding Cheyenne’s death, the sound emerging from under Cheyenne’s cushions. The conflicting and intertwining audio created an aural representative of the chaos in the artist’s mind during this period of time.
Also part of the installation, were two of the artist’s sculptures, one a bear head with half of it’s face wearing a fiendish mask, and the other made from a bear cookie jar with two faces, one happy and one monstrous. These represent the inner and outer struggle of the artist, and the inability to put on a happy face for the public. Another piece, more conceptual, sat on a table next to the recliner for viewers to spin, a clear display box of empty recreational marijuana packages the artist meticulously saved while trying to self-medicate for months. It spun on its stand so viewers could turn it and read the gold leaf lettering on the outside offering Shane’s own words of despair and regret, the cost of the empty contents inside, and the surprisingly dark lyrics of the Cheech & Chong song ‘Up In Smoke’.
All of those who attended the conceptual exhibit were touched, a gratifying sight that signified people got it. A GoFundMe campaign thankfully raised more than $1300 to help cover the costs of the installation, further proving this was something many could relate to. And, a number of kind personal notes and public posts have been shared by viewers thanking the artist and relating their own experience and understanding of the installation’s meaning, an act greater than money in the eye’s of the artist, Shane Bugbee. It was also a powerful experience for the artist, who has since this dark period received the medical and psychiatric help he needed, losing more than 70 pounds so far, the color returning to his face, and the spark back to his eyes.
Our greatest desire is that this installation be allowed to reach more people, serving to create a much needed dialogue and better understanding of mental illness and depression. Videographer, Keith Apland, perfectly captured the artist and the installation in a short video available above.
For a very personal take on this show, visit : http://amybugbee.com/?p=175
The artist wishes to thank all those who supported the event with words and money, and everyone who came sit and experience the installation with open minds and hearts.
To support the artist, and see the full audio, video, photos, and the book the artist produced of the show photos and words, go to Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/creativeclass
To Support the costs associated with this installation and receive one of the rewards offered, see the GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/fromtherecliner
To contact the artist about a future home for the installation, email: firstname.lastname@example.org