Laura Mackin is a kind of amateur archivist. Not unlike the countless Tumblr managers of the world, she collects countless and readily available mundane imagery that populates our visual world, reorganizing and cataloging it for re-contextualized consideration; but unlike those countless Tumblr managers (or at least most of them), Mackin invests deeply in the authors of the original imagery. Previously, Mackin has mined ebay seller’s photos, collecting images by single sellers (the Davis mirrors) or a category of sales (wedding dresses), drawing from a select group of their output to shape a kind of oblique portraiture of an individual or a poetic typology.
With little evidence to construct a picture of the lives behind the found imagery, Mackin’s results are subtle interventions – tiny windows into lives that are labeled with just a last name or internet “handle.” For the project Davis, which took the form of an artist book, a video, and set of photographs, Mackin worked with photos by the seller “Davis” who had built an ebay presence reselling mirrors, always shot in their backyard, leaning against the same tree. Collaging these photos together, Mackin was able to construct a view of the seller’s back yard, a view that prominently featured a gravestone.
For her threewalls’ exhibition 120 Years, Mackin has worked with two physical collections of images: a collection of home movies (1946-2006) by a man named Dean and a collection of postcards from 1910-1968 predominantly mailed to a woman named Mrs. Ernest. With only these two collections to build from, Mackin remixes these materials into comparative grids, diptychs, collages and maps (both static and moving image) that look at landscape and travel through the idiosyncratic perspective of the vernacular. However ‘unknown’ to us the original authors or owners of the archives might be, Mackin’s nuanced and elegant treatment of these collections render characters from otherwise ambiguous materials while simultaneously furnishing a kind of elegiac lens with which to consider “America.”
Laura Mackin has exhibited her work nationally, including solo shows in Nashville, TN; and Portland, OR; and Chicago. Her work has been written about in Time Out Chicago, Artforum.com, Newcity, and the Chicago Reader. Curatorial projects include directing Giftshop Project Space in Chicago and co-directing the H. Lewis Gallery in Baltimore, MD. Mackin received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.