KANSAS CITY, MO.- Urban Culture Project presents Miki Baird: Tow Lot Vanitas, Opening Friday, January 18, 6-9 pm at Paragraph gallery. Tow Lot Vanitas is an exhibition composed of photographic images that Kansas City artist Miki Baird captured at close range from the inside and the outside of vehicles stored at the Kansas City, Missouri Tow Lot. With assistance from the Municipal Arts Commission and the Neighborhood and Community Services Department of Kansas City, Baird obtained permission to work on site at the tow lot at 6817 Stadium Drive for a period of four months in 2007, during which time she produced an extensive body of images and documentation.
A cumulative photo investigation examining bits of evidence left in the wake of human activity, this project is the latest in several series of large scale tracking expeditions that Baird has engaged in since 2005, beginning with her interactive, temporary outdoor public installation, Sidewalk Confetti, which covered a three block area of sidewalk between 9th Street and 12th Street on Central Avenue as a 2006 Avenue of the Arts commission.
My interest is not in describing the tow lot as an entirety but in collecting information about the presence and movement of people from a continuing series of sites, in this case, the tow lot, writes Baird. The grounds are full of facts and in some ways resemble a landfill, as a repository, although transitory regarding the vehicles that pass through its location. My challenge is to communicate through my art, in the best way I can, the information found in the bits and pieces of images retrieved from each vehicle. In many ways the images I uncover take on the persona of twenty-first century vanitas, and act as unwittingly placed memento mori waiting to be noticed.
Baird became interested in the tow lot while serving on a One Percent for Art selection panel to choose an artist who would be commissioned to make work for the new Vehicle Tow Services building, now under construction. That process included several field trips to the existing tow lot toward understanding the underpinnings of the entire department, from employees to customers, during which time Baird became acutely aware of and interested in the depth of narrative hidden within the site.
The overall contents of the tow lot appears to be remarkably representative of the population of greater Kansas City. As individual objects, the vehicles are a trove of information, and in many ways they are telling about the owners, sometimes revealing to the point of pain. Some cars embody tragic stories and others are so innocuous their sterility hurts. Regardless, parked within this huge lockup are clues found in personal possessions left behind as well as from the marks of human stain; even those things that are minute and unassuming are reflective of human effect. My intent is to recover visual clues that when pieced together reflect the presence, place, and social and cultural habits depicting the flow of activity that prevails in our everyday lives.
Miki Baird received her BFA degree in Sculpture from the University of Kansas in 1997 and her MFA degree, also from the University of Kansas, in 2000. She has presented solo exhibitions at Beth Allison Gallery, Leedy Voulkos Art Center, Kansas City Artists Coalition, and Urban Culture Projects Jenkins window galleries in Kansas City, as well as at ARC gallery in Chicago; her work has also been featured in group exhibitions at venues including Sikkema Jenkins , New York; H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City; the Track House, Oak Park, IL; Salina Art Center, Kansas; and Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City. For more information visit www.mikibaird.com.
An initiative of the Charlotte Street Foundation, Urban Culture Project creates new opportunities for artists of all disciplines and contributes to urban revitalization by transforming spaces in downtown Kansas City into new venues for multi-disciplinary contemporary arts programming. For more information, visit www.urbancultureproject.org or email email@example.com.