Mary Mattingly, Boulders, and the Police

An art piece by Mary Mattingly in which a trash boulder sits on top of a naked woman.

Image: Life of Objects, 2013 | Mary Mattingly

A woman pushing a boulder as big as she is, made of household things and yellow twine across the Bayonne Bridge from Staten Island to New Jersey–while not technically illegal–attracts police attention. Which is how one of Mary Mattingly’s performance sculptures wound up: with a few cop cameos in the video. She kept them in it.

The videos of her pushing the big faux boulders around are a performance piece, a statement on the over-consumption common to American life. Much of her work investigates this theme, in fact.

The boulders are not rolling around New York and New Jersey now, of course. They stand in state in her exhibit, ‘Mass and Obstruction,” in Light Work Gallery. There are about half a dozen of them. The smallest is about the size of a microwave. The largest, about eight feet tall. They’re made of utterly everyday objects. Cassette tapes, books, clothing, garden hoses, all balled up in rope and twine.

Alongside the boulders are photo-manipulations, videos, and maps, each with their own message about consumption and greed.

Mary Lee Hodgens, curator of the exhibit, said that it was difficult to choose which pieces to display, because Mattingly is prolific and has, ironically, hoarded up quite a few works. She appreciates Mattingly’s work for the questions it inevitably inspires in visitors.

“It’s a pile of trash. It’s a massive pile of trash. Why would you ever want that much trash?” Hodgens said. “Where are you going with your trash? Are you keeping your trash? Are you storing your trash?”

“The artist is saying, ‘What are we doing with all this trash?’” Hodgens said

Mattingly’s boulder-rolling wasn’t her first foray into performance art. In 2014, she built a houseboat on an old barge and lived aboard for six months, eventually turning the whole vessel into a self-sufficient little farm which she titled “The Waterpod.” It visited all five boroughs of New York City.

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