AMY O'NEILL
PILGRIM MOTEL
Berlin
31 October – 20 December 2008

Amy O'Neill draws her inspiration from the vernacular culture, kitsch objects aswell as from the forested and western folklore of America and Switzerland. Somewhere between Art Brut and documentary, the subjects chosen by Amy O'Neill always remain in the "low" register of folk art, or the rural revenge over the urban. But more than just a simple interest for popular culture, the exploration of this imagery is a temptation to better understand her native culture or the places where she lived. Her previous series treated topics as different as Miss America beauty contests, processions of chars covered in flowers, Swiss chalets, pumpkin throwing contests and Sabta Claus's boot. According to needs, the vernacular can change to "kitsch", "roots" or "authentic" and once these motifs come through Amy O'Neills hands they are filled with a fantastic force, that reveals something that can be related to the freudian concept of "The Uncanny".

The title of this new exhibition at our Berlin Space leads us the way to what the visitor has to expect: a pilgrimage to American bizarreries. The Pilgrim Motel is located in Salem, Massachussets, a city known for having been the location of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and that still gets witch tourism today.

With American flags everywhere in the exhibition space, nobody can miss that this talks about American culture. But the flags hanging from the ceiling, aren't in a good state. By cutting the flags along the stitches, vistas are opened. Seams are unfurled. The flags were purchased from a small business flag maker who allows customers to choose the amount of stars they wish to have on their flags; she asked for none. Those fragmentary flags form a diptych with some hybrid quilts, combining the design of the United States flag with traditional “Bricks” and “Bars” Amish quilting patterns. Like in precedant series the artist asked specialized craftsmen to create the works, a way for her not only to get a better technique, but also to get another - complementary - point of view on the work. This time she directly collaborated with the Amish and Mennonite communities located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The series of woodblock prints on the walls, were inspired by vintage postcards. Like the one from World War II titled “L’Angleterre” that illustrates a pointed cannon cloaked with victory lace, all these postcard images use tricks based on perception and double meaning.

Like the epiphany of ones pilgrimage, the Burl Grotto becomes the sanctuary of the exhibition. Those burls, which indeed are morbid excrescences of trees have a history of being prized by craftsmen and furniture makers for their unusual forms. Creating a feeling somewhere between repulsion and attraction, the deformed nature of a burl always has been looked at with fascination.