February 26 – June 11, 2011
A large-scale sculptural installation by Portland-based artist Mike Rathbun.
Entering Mike Rathbun’s Urgency is like stumbling down a rabbit hole. This bizarre world recalls the magical darkness of the Brothers Grimm and the wondrous imagination of Maurice Sendek’s Where the Wild Things Are. Rathbun’s powerful installation evokes both unease and wonder. On one hand, the space compels exploration, but it also is filled with a sense of foreboding. As visitors in this strange environment, we are swallowed up by its monumental scale and dwarfed by a menacing forest of thorns that appear to burst out of the gallery’s ceiling. With only a narrow passageway around the perimeter, the installation overwhelms the space, making it difficult to maneuver. Even still, our scale in relationship to it is confounding: are we the size of insects in a field or have the thorny trunks taken over this world?
How Mike Rathbun created Urgency is part of an intensive and intuitive process. Once he arrives at an idea, no matter how spectacular or unfathomable, he works with urgency to build it. Like an undying itch that needs to be scratched, he labors frantically until his vision is realized. The fact that Urgency is a physical astonishment and displays the skill of a master craftsman is only part of the equation for the artist. For him, the real challenge is the process – the intensive effort and labor involved in his quest to find answers. He writes, “I am trying to find epiphanies. These are moments when … I seem to be connected to something outside of myself. This happens when a set of circumstances arises and is triggered by something … I then feel an emotional swell that is so profound that it becomes physical. I experience a moment of clarity … a glimpse of something that seems to be the most important thing!”
Ultimately, Rathbun is a seeker, an inquisitor pursuing a state of momentary clarity in the creation of his monumental works. Inspired by legends and heroic actions, Urgency presents an environment that is both dream-like and daunting. If only momentarily, the work jolts us into an alternate reality, changing the way we perceive ourselves in this strange place.
Originally from the Midwest, Rathbun currently lives in Portland, Oregon where he is an Assistant Professor of Sculpture at Lewis and Clark College. He received his MFA from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis and his BA from Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota. His installations and exhibitions have appeared throughout the US, including Art Gym, Marylhurst University, Portland, Oregon; Franconia Sculpture Park, Shafer, Minnesota; Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California; Socrates Sculpture Park, Long Island City, New York; and Huntington Beach Art Center, Huntington Beach, California. Rathbun has also been awarded prestigious national and regional grants from the Jerome Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts and the Bush Foundation, among others.
The artist would like to thank the following individuals whose hearts and hands were instrumental in the production of this work: Zoe Clark, Caitlin Ducey, Rick Holden, Lewis Feuer, Kelly Kuykendall, Riley Meinershagen, Kathryn Miller, Molly Montagna, Sandra Moll, Meagan Nuss, Kim, Melissa & Ameilia Rathbun, Steve Rathbun, Sonia Stolfo, and Kyle Thompson.