American Mortal

American Mortal
September 3 – October 19, 2019

Reception: Thursday, September 26
Sew to Speak, Performance by Melissa Vandenberg: Thursday, September 26
Artist Talk: Saturday, September 28


What does it mean to be patriotic? 

Can you be proud of your country and question its politics simultaneously? 

Is there more than one way to honor those who have lost their lives during the fight for our freedom?

American Mortal features provocative works by Becky Alley and Melissa Vandenberg, who use common domestic items to explore themes of patriotism, war, and commemoration in our current cultural environment. Whether tongue-in-cheek, or an outright adverse critique, the artists focus on American identity, and our relationship to what we believe and why. 


Alley’s methodical, process-driven works memorialize and humanize the vast number of civilian lives lost – and families displaced – by recent wars. In her works, she turns common, everyday items such as matches, soap, needles and bed sheets into memorials for the dead. These private memorials using simple, often delicate materials, contrast the marble and stone memorials erected in public spaces that we are more familiar seeing. In her artist statement she writes, “With this ongoing series of memorials, I invite the viewer to viscerally experience the obscene human cost of war while attempting to behold and digest the staggering scale of innocent lives lost.”



Vandenberg explores the symbolism of the flag, patriotism and partisanship through various mediums and clever juxtapositions. Like Alley, Vandenberg is also drawn to using common items and has a process-oriented studio practice. Gloves, army surplus duffle bags and the American flag are altered from their original forms into large, somewhat playful and somewhat satirical sculptures. These sculptures, paired with works on paper, lead the viewer to themes of nationalism and question “… the notion of a ‘homeland’ and how national identity intertwines with individual identity.” 


During the opening reception for American Mortal, Vandenberg will also be performing her piece Sew To Speak: Surrender. Vandenberg will perform with a 1950s Singer sewing machine, while meditating on women's work, mortality, and the state of nation with strips of white muslin fabric. You can learn more about Vandenberg’s performances on her website.

Poetic Responses, Bullets Into Bells - September 2019



Image Credits:
Postcard image for American Mortal

Becky Alley, Stacks, 2018, 31,000 used book pages, soap, fat, cinder blocks. A memorial to civilians killed in Afghanistan since 2001.

Becky Alley, Rubble, 2018 (ongoing), 112,000 white flags: used bed sheets, plaster; pine. A war memorial for civilians killed in Syria since 2011.

Melissa Vandenberg, Monument, 2016, US flags, polyester, wood, nylon, and hardware.

Melissa Vandenberg, ExPatRiot, 2016, Match burn on Arches paper.


Lamont Gallery programs are supported in part by the Michael C. Rockefeller ’56 Visiting Artists Fund.