In Papa was a Garbage Man, Matthew Shields presents a monumental throne made of trash and other socially symptomatic debris collected from rubble heaps and alleys.
Surfaces of a mad montage materiality embed the sculptural object in a contemporary infinity of materials, the textures and aleatory chromatic constellations of which are rendered here as simultaneously repulsive and jewel like. On the sides of the throne, layered high relief objects protrude in piles, first affixed on the horizontal, then placed vertically, against gravity. Large European land snails (Helix Pomatia), crawl freely on the throne’s glittering waste landscapes leaving there own shining traces. Helix Pomatia are commonly known as Burgundy Snails, which while consumed as escargot and prized as a delicacy, also have featured in traditional common recipes dating back to the Roman empire. Placed on an elevated platform the stairs leading up to the throne make reference to the exaggerated, hierarchical figure positioning of the throne of Charlemagne (790) and the steps used to mount particularly large horses. Underneath the platform is a cellar like chamber containing a young child’s school chair. A weathered tape head stuffed with dinosaur coprolite rests on the seat while a pair of tiny iridescent velvet strips lay beneath it, the diminutive chair placed inside the larger throne complex inscribing it with a mise en abyme.
Papa was a garbage man operates on multiple planes; the autobiographical, the narrative and the allegorical.