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Ryan Dewey

Archaeological Mistakes I've Made, #8
plaster, stones, ceramic, paracord
23.5" x 24.5" x 9" 

(b. 1979  Cleveland, OH) An unwavering champion of the mysteries in the natural environment, Ryan Dewey creates artworks that examine the relationship between the natural world and humankind—both on an individual scale and within the context of a broader society. He describes his work as “a kind of socially-engaged ecological dreaming that takes shape as installation, performance, research workshops, and land art.”

In this particular work, the artist recasts the scene of a crime. Years earlier, while walking a historic site, he found and collected the pitcher handle that now hangs in this artwork. A precious object, he kept it for himself. After much reflection on cultural ownership and theft, the artist has made this mock-up of the original scene as an acknowledgement of responsibility and as a theoretical sign-post for us all to consider the cultural thieving or transgressions in our own walk, both as individuals and as Americans. The artist invites viewers to gently hold the handle, joining in the artist’s original temptation and his lingering culpability. Be reverent as you touch—there is an aura around this object. Its history, its utility, its previous ownership are all present.  

Dewey received an MA from Case Western Reserve University, where he also served as Visiting Researcher in Cognitive Science for two years. His work has been exhibited at a number of institutions in Cleveland, including SPACES and Forum Artsapce, with a forthcoming solo exhibition at the Sculpture Center (2019). Dewey is the founder of the Geologic Cognition Society, an “art collaborative focused on reconnecting people to nature by building experiences and site-specific installations that play with emotion and perception.” His book, Hack the Experience: Tools for Artists from Cognitive Science was recently published by Punctum Books.

From the nominating artist:

When I heard about Ryan’s project the first time, I was already a fan of his work. I had not seen any parts of the project at that time but the ideas he explored in the work blew my mind. He is a researcher, an investigator, a lab technician, a scavenger, a miner, a geologist and an archeologist whose discoveries, with a hint of humor, question the being of our world. Everyday commodities, rocks in the field, even the air we breathe, all become his subjects. He investigates them in terms of both the geological and human timescales of this planet. When visiting his studio, it was fascinating to see how these projects take place and evolve. He does not work on a single project, rather he works on an incredible number of projects at the same time. Ideas of different projects are bounced off each other and evolve together. Each project seems like a catalyst or the end result of other projects. His workplace truly felt like an incubator of ideas, where visitors will easily lose track of time wanting to see more.

Ryan’s work is informative, playful, experiential, funny and unexpected. It is fun to look at our mundane small activities against the background of ecosystems and geological science, which seems to me a suggestion to take ownership of our own actions. I admire Ryan’s curiosity about the world around him. His curiosity sparks my own curiosity, and I want more.
— Mimi Kato

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