7/10/09 5:25 PM
Erick Michaud does not suffer nostalgia lightly. Especially not the small-town New England nostalgia of baseball and front porches and hard work and fishing. Michaud’s practice cuts quite literally through the soft-focus veneer of such dreamy imagery, taking the baseballs and bats, small cottages, mops and harpoons that are its material tools and revealing the reality that infuses them, if one dares to look longer and harder than any memory can take. He does this through the technique of wood burning, a folksy craft more typically used these days to burnish wood and leather with the kinds of pleasant pictures that sell to tourists. In Michaud’s hands, however, the technique proves combustible, an unforgiving burning that insists one see the gravestones that lie at the other end of the mop handle; the brutal housing projects that rise along the business end of the baseball bat; the skulls that litter the handle of the harpoon. Nothing could be more correct—day labor exhausts the body and spirit, for little pay; baseball bats offer a cheap form of protection and violence in bleak urban neighborhoods; harpoons kill, not just whales but people too. Nothing could be more symbiotic than to use an old-fashioned technique to burn these stories into the very stuff of their making. And nothing could be harder to look at. No wonder we fall for nostalgia so easily.