Detailing Darling

Detailing Darling
Darling Foundry Residency Statement
Gabriel Akagawa

Art is a tool to question how we use and abuse our minds, bodies and environments. My artistic practice is an exploration of art as medicine. I look for the profound in mundane experience to elevate its status and the viewer’s attention to the moment.

During the Darling Foundry residency, I will work to connect to artistic communities as well as investigate the stories of people and families associated with the original Darling Foundry business. Calling this project Detailing Darling refers to my planned historic investigations and interviews. These will be manifested with formal documentation such as posters on recycled paper or printed textiles that exhibit images and narratives. I will create objects capitalizing on the technical hybridity of the soldered cast iron components for which the company was once renowned. Piecing together forms provides a supportive format for the complex system of researched stories. To accomplish this project, I will draw on my experiences such as the Unpacked/Offset project at Northern Illinois University. There, I worked with artists in the community to create an exhibition promoting analyses of local issues of humanity’s complex relationship with nature. Over the course of a semester, I gave lectures, planned the exhibition, and worked with collaborators utilizing art shipping crates destined for the landfill.

Workshops and happenings are critical extensions of my studio practice. In a similar manner, I organized the Ballution project workshop at the Alternator Gallery’s Reclaiming Narrative Residency. More recently, I arranged sand mold workshops and a bronze pour at Morton Arboretum. A Detailing Darling workshop might involve casting pipe forms from molds I make of Darling-cast pipes, in salt or sugar with local school students. At the residency’s end, I hope to coordinate an iron pour at the final exhibition of work created during the residency. Two workshops would facilitate this: one educational workshop for a smaller core group of seven people to work the iron furnace and pour, a second larger group workshop would create sand molds to cast iron skillets; symbols of community of eating together out of the same form, the same iron, an essential mineral to human health, connected to utilitarian iron casting.

Various components of this residency will aid in incorporating historical and contemporary social functioning of foundry into my teaching and art practices. I am endeavoring to start an educational program that capitalizes on the values of craftsmanship, local labor and service. Many artists and trades people have worked with a common value of the handmade, the well made and the locally made throughout history. I hope to make new connections of value at the Darling Foundry. The residency will afford me an opportunity to participate in a community that I hope to recreate and/or extend to the Butler Street Foundry (est. 1891), where I house my studio. I would ideally like to make connections between the two as sister programs. The Darling residency can facilitate my effort to contribute to the critical development needed to save historic buildings and creative practices by expanding their meaning and values to the surrounding communities.