Part sculpture and part performance, Greg Stewart's self-sustaining structures include the basics for survival: food, shelter, and clothing. Imagine the bus from Jon Krakauer's Into the Wild, and you'll get a sense of "Meat Not Taken," his piece on view at Redux. A greenhouse for growing carrots sits on the top, a stack of bricks forms a wall that can be used as a firepit/cooking station, and a small brewery acts as a water filtration system. Turned upside down, the cart becomes a trap to catch a rabbit. This is the performance part of the piece, which Stewart says is a form of "trickster mythology, like Wile E. Coyote."
The sculpture's title, "Meat Not Taken," is an adaptation of another myth: the "Hymn to Hermes," a Greek tale in which Hermes refrains from eating all the meat he discovers in a barn. The moral? By leaving some behind, Hermes is providing for others and ensuring hope for the future. Stewart's imagined future is both hopeful and disturbing. "There is an element of fear for our future and a false sense of security, but we will adapt, just like we've done since the beginning," he says.
Redux Director Karen Ann Myers says Stewart submitted his work to their annual call for entries last November. He was one of three artists selected out of 344. "His work really stood out because of its originality and inventiveness," she says. "Greg plans to arrive on Saturday, and we will scout for sites in and around Charleston to document his work outside of the gallery. We will photograph it in a variety of settings before we create the final arrangement in the gallery."
As an associate professor of art at James Madison University, Stewart teaches sculpture and three-dimensional design and has been building mobile structures for several years. Interested in geography and nomadic forms of architecture, he says historically speaking, sculpture has been thought of as big, heavy pieces built in fixed environments. His work is contrary to that notion. He is never finished with his structures, building on top of previous works, past ideas, and elements so the pieces will continue to grow and adapt, just like human nature.
As part of the city-wide Bluesphere earth art expo, Stewart's structures evoke a curiosity about the living spaces of future generations. What does it mean to be self-sufficient? Can we learn to live with less? Inspired by the challenge of growing food in urban environments, Stewart created a mobile apple orchard that he said could be tended like a herd of cattle. "I don't set out to make a statement with my work, but people make a connection, which creates dialogue."
Stewart's creations are like a science experiment or a contemporary homeless shelter gone wild. While he doesn't set out to make a statement, his pieces demand to be noticed. Upon closer examination, the complexity and details of his small, futuristic environments are full of childlike wonder.
Stop by Redux for a glimpse of "Meat Not Taken." It just might help you prepare for the future.