TPL: Introduce your series BARE ESSENTIALS to us. How and why did this first manifest for you? What is the full story behind the project? What was the inspiration?
SG: The initial months of the pandemic, when we were told to live and work within the confines of our homes, was a period where I took inventory of my life. I used the time to reflect on my priorities as a person and consider the importance of contributing good to the world. When I make art, I most often utilize narratives from my life as a catalyst. “Bare Essentials” was born from reflection on my fears of Covid personally and its impact on the community and the environment. I was incredibly moved by how the often-invisible essential workers faced the risks each day to maintain the supply chains and keep producing to keep food on our shelves in the midst of such chaos. I learned in these moments the importance of recognizing everyone for what they contribute to society.
In the spring of 2020, after multiple unsuccessful hunts for ever-elusive essential goods, I humbly turned to online ordering of toilet paper, disposable masks and hand sanitizer. The oversized box arrived with much anticipation. Opening with delight, the relief was short-lived as reality hit – each item carefully wrapped in bubble-wrap, an almost comedic and devastating visual commentary of early pandemic times. I kept the packaging as a reminder of my contribution to the environmental impact of the pandemic and how I succumbed to the culture of fear driven consumption. Reflecting back on these moments informed and shaped the body of work BARE ESSENTIALS.
The collection of composite still life imagery in BARE ESSENTIALS interrogates patterns of human behavior and consumerism as they were affected by Covid-19 in North America. Prior to the world being upended by the pandemic, everyday products such as toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, masks and other disposable goods were generally assumed to be in endless supply with little awareness of the complex systems that deliver them to retail. As the world shut down, these basic items suddenly became scarce, panic purchasing ensued causing goods to fly off the shelves often into the homes of those hoarding against imminent disaster. This abrupt shift in purchasing habits laid bare several uncomfortable truths about our culture of consumption while shining a light on the vital work of vulnerable workers tasked with creating manufacturing and distributing items for our basic comfort.
In this series, I created conceptual portraits of utilizing these banal commonplace items made valuable through the threat of scarcity — manipulating their form to visually convey their meteoric metamorphosis into often elusive objects of desire. As they seemingly drift through the frame suspended in light - their beauty is ephemeral, undermined by the realization of their functionality, effect on daily life and the environment. The images take on a spectral and slightly ironic quality, calling attention to the dependence on single use goods, supply chain and the newly emerging consumer hierarchy exposed during the early days of the pandemic. These are the ‘bare essentials’ of our private lives.