Thursday, September 04, 2014

Artist Scott Scarboro and family transform old junk into new, beautiful and fun forms

Despite seeing the world through the eyes of its outsiders, Scott Scarboro has earned quite a lofty reputation in the Louisville visual arts world. His recent Green Building Gallery exhibition, “Glitches from the Memory Bank,” has been revived and is on display at Krantz Gallery at Jefferson Community & Technical College. A new show, “Stitch Witchery,” opens at WHY Louisville Two in NuLu on Friday during the Trolley Hop. But the best part of Scarboro’s 2014 has been the debut exhibition of work by his son, Harlan Strummer Welch-Scarboro, who is 11 years old.

Like his dad, Welch-Scarboro is a multimedia artist focusing on taking old, discarded objects like toys from thrift stores, yard sales and alleys and placing them into new, unexpected contexts.

But Dad says the boy has his own ideas: “Harlan’s work is somewhat different from mine, although we both are cut from the same cloth and come from a long line of junk pickers and resourceful folk. His recent grouping of work — 50 pieces! — were more like surreal assemblage constructions … He has a good eye and keen sense of beauty.”

“Cute Combo” by Harlan Strummer Welch-Scarboro

Scarboro is continuing his family’s tradition of teaching their children to make things by hand. He watched his mother and grandmother sew, and it spoke to him. “Some boys learn about the facts of life over their first beer on a fishing trip with their dad. I learned while sitting beside my mom at the Singer machine,” he says. “We had many conversations there. Something about that mechanical rhythm that would force me to tell the truth … I am at ease and comfortable at the machine.”

His WHY Louisville show, one he calls “my continuing exploration of color, materials and the process of sewing,” salutes his mother’s practice of attaching patches to the knees of his jeans. Scarboro’s professional applications began with an early ’90s job constructing costumes and clown props for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a good place for a young man who would go on to hang with the oddballs at Georgia’s Finster Fest and later found Louisville’s outsider Good Folk Fest.

But he has also found success in the corporate world. Pieces have been sold to Yum!, Maker’s Mark and Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, and shown in Chicago, San Francisco and at Art Basel Miami. Scarboro says the world has changed somewhat and his way has become a bit more accepted, though that doesn’t change his approach. Even for his sewing show, the materials will be unconventional: “Wire, paper, cardboard, Taco Bell wrappers, etc. … If the needle can go through it, it’s fair game,” he says.

WHY Louisville owner Will Russell says, “He takes what others throw away and transforms it into art, salvaging nostalgia with his own unique twist.” The images in that show continue the distorted-childhood-memories theme of his “Glitches” exhibition — Wonder Woman, Batman, Evel Knievel and characters from “Star Wars,” “Lost in Space” and “Sigmund and the Sea Monsters” are manipulated fondly.

“Visible Man” by Scott Scarboro

On Sept. 22, Scarboro will give an artist lecture at JTCT, discussing his art from college through recent videos and public works. “I will also touch on resourcefulness and the flexibility of using what is around you to create,” he says. His approach wasn’t always rewarded. “In college, I was asked to make some large sculptural pieces for a bar in Lexington,” he says, “but when I brought them some things I made, they refused to install them because the junk was too dirty.”

JCTC curator Lisa Simon has known Scarboro for several years, going back to when they both had workspaces in the Cinderblock Gallery near what has become NuLu. She contacted him to ask about using some of his work in the school’s Krantz Art Gallery at First and Chestnut streets. “Fortunately, I had all this work that I wasn’t quite ready to put back into the studio yet,” Scarboro says. “So I took the show down at the Green Building Gallery, left the stuff in my car overnight and reinstalled (it) the next day.”

The co-occupant of his current studio space is rubbing off on him more these days. He says son Harlan “inspires me probably more than I him.”

c. 2014 Insider Louisville

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