A MODEST CABIN
Opening Reception: Friday, July 29, 2022, from 6-9pm
About the Exhibition
“This new body of work that began forming during gloomy isolation of spring 2020 is characterized by architectonic forms constructed from found material. The freestanding pieces are rooted in memories of my grandfather’s ramshackle cottage while the wall pieces are purely formal.” -Dylan
About the Artist
Dylan Strzynski is a multidisciplinary artist from Michigan. He is inspired by the woody marine landscape of the north where he grew up and the area surrounding his home in rural western Washtenaw County. Focusing on landscape and vernacular architecture, his work addresses concerns about the environment and poverty by telling stories characterized by mystery and subtle humor. “The Life We Make” a documentary film about working artists co-directed by Strzynski recently screened at festivals across the US and Canada.
A Modest Cabin
Our memories are fallible. We remember things not as records of the past but as impressions of the last time we thought of those things. People from earlier in our lives either fade away or become mythological characters in our personal cosmologies. My grandfather is one of the later. Born in 1904 he seemed impossibly old when I was a child. He died a few months before my tenth birthday so I never knew him as an adult. I remember him as a generous and curmudgeonly jokester. Looking back he was more like a time traveler.
In the 1950s my grandfather and his brother built a cabin on a small lake in northern Michigan. A section of the cabin was built by recycling an old concession stand from my mother’s school. This is amazing in retrospect as my grandfather did not appear handy. I remember that he seemed to repair everything with wire and tape. As such the cabin was a ramshackle affair but stood for decades. Around 1970 my grandfather retired from Buick. He and my grandmother moved permanently from their home in Flint to the cabin. A few years later, but before I was born, my grandmother died. Virtually a fictional character by comparison, her star in my universe is entirely fabricated from stories and a few photos.
My memories begin with a very old man haunting a little house on a lake. The cabin was probably only about five hundred square feet. My grandfather mostly lived in the kitchen next to a potbelly stove that was as old as he was. He never learned to cook and at some point around 1980 someone in the family bought him the first microwave oven I ever saw. The odor of sulfur-y well water permeated the house along with wood stove and cigar smells. A large bay window faced the lake. When it rained he would set buckets on the floor to catch drips from the leaky roof. There was an attic accessible only from outside. I never went up there but once my cousin did and he came crashing through the ceiling. My grandfather’s house was funky and odd but cozy. In my adult life I have rarely seen homes of such modesty and character. He was easily the least materialistic American I ever knew. Maybe because he was born before social media, television or even radio he was not easily tricked into arbitrary desires and artificial needs.
By the end of the 1980s, after my grandfather’s passing, my uncles had torn down the ramshackle cabin. I do not have a complete photo of it. In some old pictures I can see a blurry side or a corner of the front porch poking into the frame where stand my ancient grandfather, young mother and even younger self, frozen, smiling for the camera.
These sculptures are drawn from my memories. Some are earnest attempts to reconstruct my grandfather’s house in miniature. Others, with distorted proportions and exaggerated features represent what the cabin could have been or exist independently as formal explorations of the original concept. In order to reflect the bricolage construction of the real cabin they are built exclusively from found materials using few tools. Along with my memories these sculptures represent the modest aspirations of the working class; a little place up north next to a small lake under starry skies for relaxing and dreaming. These are blue collar spaceships.
About the Spotlight Gallery
The A2AC Spotlight Gallery is a flexible exhibition space on the 2nd floor of the A2AC in the heart of Downtown Ann Arbor.