Fall 2006 International Artist-in-Residence Program

Hobby Horse

  • Fall 2006 International Artist-in-Residence Program
  • Exhibition Dates: Nov 16,2006 - Jan 14,2007
  • About the artist
  • Allison Smith at work cropAllison Smith

    Allison Smith’s objects and performances restage pivotal moments in American history to illuminate contemporary political issues. The myriad elements used in her projects, such as dolls, quilts, and uniforms, are handmade and labor intensive, foregrounding the role of craftRead more

About the exhibition

Allison Smith’s Artpace project continues to examine how political meaning can reside within aesthetic forms and to employ history to comment on current events.

Featured is Hobby Horse, a performance-based sculpture of the traditional child’s toy, complete with horsehair, glass eyes, and handmade bridle. Standing more than nine feet tall, the oversized object lays bare the militaristic spirit of this old-fashioned plaything and probes equestrian statuary’s commemoration of bloodshed. The performance staged by Smith at the exhibition’s opening further engaged this duality. Donning a replicated Civil War-era uniform and carrying a handcrafted flag, haversack, and rifle—all deposited in the gallery after the event—the artist mounted Hobby Horse and sang a lullaby, set to the time-honored battle hymn “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.” However, Smith replaced the original lyrics, which are celebratory, with her own, which speak of living in divided times of cultural impasse. A limited edition print of the song sheet accompanies the show.

With her handwoven coverlet Security Blanket (Drums of War), Smith has evoked the politics of textiles. Smith altered the 19th-century design Lee’s Surrender to include oil drums, an allusion to the position of economics in contemporary conflicts, and used red, blue, and yellow, a trio of recurring hues that represent both the US today as a polarized nation and the primary colors of art.

Also included is a life-sized pioneer doll clad in a smocked dress, bonnet, and boots. Made using doll parts cast from her own body, this surrogate object affords Smith an opportunity for role play while addressing the socialization of children through toys. Handprinted in blue, red, and yellow on the girl’s pinafore is Smith’s refrain: What are you fighting for?

-Kate Green

Other works in this cycle