Michael Asbill is an installation and public artist, independent curator, and arts advocate who lives and works in Accord, New York. Michael is a former co-director of KMOCA (Kingston Museum of Contemporary Art) a gallery dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary artworks produced in the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York. He served as art manager for the Hudson Valley Seed Library (HVSL) where he helped establish their art pack project. He is a co-director of Chrch Project Space, Cottekill, NY, where Catskill Waters’ first artists’ presentation is scheduled to open in October, 2017.
SALVAGE is an installation of rearticulated deer skeletons. I found the bones at an active state highway roadkill dumpsite where the carcasses are discarded at the top of a steep slope above a river. The road crews cover them with wood chips and other dry composting materials. Over time the remains decompose and the hill erodes, gradually moving the bones down the grade. After a few years the bones are clean and deposited in loose soil at the bottom. I’ve been collecting/excavating bones there since 2001. Each skeleton in the herd is made up of bones from many different deer.
The skeletons of SALVAGE are staged in a pseudo-scientific way. They have been assembled with anatomical accuracy as dinosaur bones are presented in the halls of a natural history museum. But this herd is homemade, not institutional. This distinction serves to memorialize these reconstituted animals. These are not just specimens. The herd is not just rearticulated, but in a sense reanimated, creating a ghostly effect that is simultaneously heightened and purposefully diminished with dramatic lighting and rough staging.
My projects, as seen in SALVAGE, are explorations of the margins where people and nature overlap. For me these points of focus are beautiful and tragic, polluted but spectacular. I look for decay and ruin in our own backyards. My projects develop close to home. I form a bond with my subject and I will study it for years. These investigations lead to a systematic and analytical processing of the matter that invariably deepens the personal resonance I have with the subject.
RAFT is an immersive, shanty-like, vessel of last resort made entirely of flood debris. It is an impractical and landlocked craft that presents a tension between ecological disaster and recreation. It is part museum exhibit and part mini golf shipwreck.
This project was conceived when I was exploring a popular fishing hole, along a big eddy, near my home. While there, I was struck by the sheer volume of garbage along the shoreline and the multitude of ways fishermen use the debris to create temporary camp sites and fish-cleaning stations. Regular visits to the site made it clear that the trash is moved around and replenished with every big storm. Everyday this bend in the river looks like the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This river, so close to my home, is like an Atlantic-side tributary for the Great Pacific Trash Vortex. The fisherman are literally camping and angling in a river of waste and it seems totally normal.