Sulfur Studios On::View Artist-in-Residency program is giving local artists an opportunity for high visibility in their gallery space. This month’s chosen exhibition is “Worth Dying For” by Kevin Clancy.
Clancy uses real American flags and manipulates them in various ways in order to create his pieces. This could be perceived as an anti-patriotic act; however, his motives are far from it.
He hopes to encourage dialogue between people with varying political opinions — something he believes is lacking these days — and uncover the complexity behind the object’s symbolism.
Clancy’s political vigilance was sparked by the tragedy of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
“If it wasn’t for that, I would have probably turned out as one of those guys that didn’t vote,” Clancy said.
He began expressing his politics through art by painting flags resembling Jasper Johns’ work. They were proportional to real flags with text embedded in them.
The Boston native continued working with this medium until he joined SCAD’s MFA program.
“A lot of my professors asked me why I was painting flags,” Clancy said with a needle in hand.
“Lots of whys and I didn’t know. I was calling them flags and they were very clear that it wasn’t a flag. It was a representation of a flag. It’s just a painting and even the flag itself is just a representation of an idea. So, I was making a representation of a representation.”
This is where Clancy began to toy around with the notion of including the real object in his art. He bought 100 percent raw cotton flags and slathered them with gesso in an attempt to make them his canvas — a failed experiment.
This led him to think about the deconstructive aspect of conceptual art and thus his dissection of the American flag began.
During the 2016 elections, he promised to take flags apart every single day for eight years starting Inauguration Day, no matter who was elected.
“I started doing that in January 2016, so today is day 830 or something.” he said. “It was very labor centric in the beginning, but now it’s really become a part of my life which is sometimes anxiety inducing because there are times that I’m super busy and its 11 o’clock and I realize I have to do this now before I go to bed.”
Since 2016, Clancy has not missed a day — not even on a recent trip to Zurich when his clamps, used to hold the material in place during the dissection process, were confiscated by airport security. One of his pieces displays the red, white and blue piles of threads he has collected since Trump’s election.
Clancy has been documenting the whole process on his project’s Instagram account, @thefabricofourreality.
In addition to physically deconstructing the American Flag, he has been tracking the American political news daily and observing how people discuss it.
Each day, he posts a photo of his progress accompanied by the headlines from relevant articles, encouraging his followers to search for the full publications and read them.
His use of the real flag has sparked a lot more engagement in his work than when he was painting.
“Not always good, but that’s OK,” he said. “When you’re using the real object, everyone has something to say about it for better or for worse. You start to dig into the underlying thoughts and belief structures we have around it.”