Eleanor Foy

History Lamp

(2020) - 17x24x9" Ceramic, electrical components
 

IThe image of the cowboy, drifting within spectacular and desolate landscapes,
is an intrinsic part of American culture. Westerns embody and perpetuate the
violence of our colonial past, outlining our relationship to history, land, and
language. Despite its sinister connotations, through familiar objects and
movies Western imagery becomes a meaningful part of our personal lives and
collective imagination.


My current body of work presents Western landmarks as TV lamps, an
appliance invented in the 1950s to alleviate the strain of watching television in
the dark. Clay is both the material found within the landscapes I represent and
the medium of its commodification in mass-produced souvenirs and
tchotchkes. Colored bulbs evoke sunsets, marquee lights, and bachelor pad
mood lighting, projecting beauty and doom. The construction of these objects
is both an indulgence in and a criticism of romantic Americana.


My lamps are imposed with words and images lifted from 19th-century
tombstones, Westerns of the 1950s and 60s, and other primary sources that
often perpetuate a biased historical narrative. Removed from its original
context, I use this found language as a catalyst for reflecting on the
associations we have with landscape and the mythology of the West. My work
is as much about deconstructing my own infatuation with Western imagery as
it is understanding erased histories and the mechanisms that have worked to
oppress them. I am driven by the necessity to unlearn what we have been
taught, unpack what we respond to, and expose the implications of the
objects we surround ourselves with.