Ethan Murrow — Hankering for the Past



Ethan Murrow
Hankering for the Past

Past: December 17, 2015 → January 20, 2016

I grew up in the very rural and small state of Vermont in the northeast region of the United States. A shortening from the french vert de montagne, it is a place renowned for its picture perfect farmland, lush forest and quaint towns. People often swoon over the State and assume it is glorious because it appears like “it used to”. Many of the old houses and barns are old and have been lovingly restored to their original “look”. This is nostalgia full blown, a romanticization of the 19th century that is tied to colonial era homesteading and nationalistic agrarian ideals. I’m not sure any of us would have liked what we found on a 19th century farm, with a passel of sheep grazing on cold, deforested rocky ground. That is why the State so perfectly represents a term like nostalgia: it conveniently edits the cold truth so the feeling is warm. Yet, I’m complicit in all of this. My family moved to the state to start a farm in the 1970’s and while it was a fantastic way to grow up, it was no rock breaking midnight milking affair. There’s also real reason for this manufactured narrative. The State needs income, the story provides respite and comfort, especially for visitors, and a reliance on a fiction is born. And thus, I chew on this omnipresence of looking back selectively — la vie en rose. We can reckon with nostalgia and throw facts at the romantic notions we gravitate towards, but at the end of the day, we all use it as a convenient method to manage our dreams and expectations. Dealing with the truth all of the time is not humanly possible, we’d simply break from sorrow and disbelief at our own messy history. Humans, after all, are very good at avoiding reality. So we tell stories and we laminate and preserve what we like and buff away the ugly conflict. Half of me has come to terms with this false truth telling because I know we need to believe in our ancestors and past to be able to collectively work together. The other half of me looks at this farmhouse of lies and wants to burn it down.

Nostalgia is crafted reparation. It’s a recovery operation. The cold war era sub is pulled from the depths of the sea and a selective story is told about it by the current owners of the residue. Nostalgia is convenience and power all at once and it’s ability to hide away in archives as fact is a brutal reality of the way in which the few narrate the history of the many.

These drawings are steeped in ideals and stereotypes, flawed rescues and laborious repairs of the past. They are invested in scenarios of rehabilitation, management of scene and outcome, fluffing of luxury and the furbishing of heroes. They are wrapped up in duplicitous wavering and sham negotiating as the old meets the new and a clash begins. They are versions above all because history is just that.

Ethan Murrow
  • Opening Thursday, December 17, 2015 at 6:30 PM
La Galerie Particulière Gallery
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The artist