Collection 1: Gone, Country
On view at Slate Arts + Performance Gallery in Chicago, featuring weekly storytelling events, September 2018
Embroidery & Writing by Jackie Mantey
Jackie Mantey is a multimedia artist and writer who lives in Chicago. She embroiders on black and white images selected from the public domain of the New York Public Library Digital Collection. The photographs used as source material for the exhibition Gone, Country were search results for the words “Home,” “Ohio,” “Chicago,” “Local,” or “Native.”
Raised on a now-shuttered dairy farm in Ohio, Mantey makes and writes work that explores America’s contemporary rural/urban divide, a division highlighted and exacerbated by the corrosive dialogue of the 2016 presidential election. Her embroidery on top of these historical images creates visual cues that warp the story of the original image. The resulting work is at once playful and unsettling, witnessed through the plastic lens of modern America, as well as our individual experiences of isolation as we struggle culturally with a national identity crisis—a national identity crisis that has been a long time coming. As progress continues to polarize traditionally privileged communities, a look back at American history tells a more nuanced story.
Presented alongside each image title in Gone, Country is the original name of the historical photograph. The language and terminology used in these original titles is important. Whose portraits have names deemed worthy enough to record? What locations and homes have been recorded for posterity? How did Americans think of and name other Americans? What was recorded and what wasn’t? What visuals are provided, by fate and algorithms, as answers to a search?
Mantey leans into these questions when rewriting each image’s story with needle and thread. Throughout the exhibition are evocations of both rural and city life; their traditions, aesthetic, and people; their similarities and power-sanctioned differences; and the things our country has taken, given, or brutally left behind. Each image is framed in repurposed barn wood that was torn down as America’s landscape changes.
At its core, Gone, Country is one American country-girl-cum-city-woman’s search for a place to land and effort to bridge an identity inspired by seemingly opposed forces.
Written as a companion piece to a gallery show of embroidered imagery and writing by author Jackie Mantey, “Gone, Country” the book weaves together essays, stories, prose, and art about life lived straddling the middle of today’s rural/ urban divide. The book is broken into four themes–Home, Faith, Hope, and Love–all representative of words we often use (or hang on our walls) but less often consider as experiences weighty with nuance and varied by choice. With a mix of humor, grief, and honesty, “Gone, Country” explores creative nonfiction’s memoir potential while reflecting one American country-girl-cum-city-woman’s search for a place to land and effort to bridge an identity inspired by seemingly opposed forces.