Contemporary visual art, Environmental art, Private art instruction

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Bryan Northup  |   Oak Park, IL, USA   |   artistbryannorthup@gmail.com

Copyright © 1999 - 2019  Bryan Northup.   All Rights Reserved

BRYAN NORTHUP

SMALL COMFORT

I am a foster dad to four boys. Being in the position of stand-in caregiver I am privy to stories of horrific trauma, abuse and neglect. I must absorb all that and ignore it at the same time. I deal with extreme behaviors from my kids resulting from chronic abuse and neglect, but daily my focus is to care for the child’s needs, to comfort him. 

Pillows have been a symbol in some of the early life stories of my boys - protection from a blow, suffocation, hiding under, taking cover. Intended to cradle, cushion or comfort, pillows connote rest and the comforts of a home. 
I have chosen this ubiquitous object to project feeling into the fillings. In this work entitled Small Comfort, unassuming everyday materials which would likely be consumed or thrown away are collected and encased in clear plastic to create pillows. I have chosen and combined various fillings that hold a symbolic value to force relationships in these pillow capsules, making meaning out of fragments. 
- Shredded confidential documents (tearing apart of a life and simultaneous documentation) 
- Pink styro peanuts (uprooting from home, moving something fragile) 
- Pill capsules (medication for remediation of abuse) 
- Lollipops (a lure, treat, an emotional band-aid) 
- Wire coat hangers (impermanence, hanging up of secrets in a closet). 

The meaning of a pillow changes depending on the fillings and these objects become less comforting, more conflicted. 
Clear plastic casings lay bare the stuffing, the insides, and leave no question as to the contents, the pillow, just like the child is vulnerable to being easily damaged. Sheer pillowcases obscure only slightly and hint at levels of secrecy and confidentiality. The materials used to create these works are considered trash, never meant to be kept and put to good use or to hold any valuable contents let alone a resting head.