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Elinor Whidden at UB Anderson Gallery

Whidden's tent made of windshield wipers.

In Nomad's Land

In Jack Kerouac’s seminal postwar novel On the Road, the driver explains the wanderlust that propelled his escape from late 1940s Manhattan: “It’s out there, man.” That, terse directional became a mantra for a whole generation of seeker sojourners which the internal combustion engine made possible. After the war, auto makers made a consumer’s transitional identity from small-town gravel road excursionist to a four-lane, six-lane, eight-lane vista conquering nomad seem invincible, inevitable, and romantic .

Elinor Whidden’s exhibition at UB Anderson Gallery presents thoughtfully absurd hardware senarios of what has become an inverted relationship between the wayfarer and the open road. Her set pieces of car parts assemblages and photographs of Bierstadt-like figure in landscape create a narrative of re-use questioning an expanse of issues, from choices of outerwear to the concept of “manifest destiny.” Whidden’s laborious factures of Detroit’s detritus engage the viewer in fantastic re-inactments as self-portrait as witness re- tracing the forefather’s trade routes on the threshold of the nacent frontier. Works such as Steel-Belted Radial Snow Shoes and Windshield Wiper Tent, are wry, ridiculous constructions meant to tease out a begrudging smirk while at the same time sending down a serious shiver recognizing what ingenuity (not to mention humor) it might take to survive in a globally warmed, post-petroleum age.

j. tim raymond

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