Stan Shellabarger’s performances and artists’ books explore time through the evidence of change, growth, and endurance. Recalling the walks of British artist Richard Long, each year Shellabarger undertakes performances during solstices and equinoxes, at times walking in a circle for more than 14 hours. Similarly, his chronologically arranged books of hair, fingernail clippings, and butter wrappers, which document his daily existence, take several years to make. In a new endurance performance for the MCA, Shellabarger walks in sandpaper-covered soled boots across a layered platform, slowly eroding a colorful pathway into the platform.
His exhibition culminates in an all-day outdoor performance event on the winter solstice, December 21, in the MCA’s sculpture garden. For Untitled Performance (Winter Solstice 2005), Shellabarger plans to begin pacing on a north-south axis across the MCA sculpture garden beginning at sunrise at 7:15 am until 11:49 am. His walk changes with the sun’s transit to an east-west path until sunset at 4:23 pm. The finished work of the two paths will form an immense “x” figure that will remain in the garden as it naturally fades away. This performance concludes his prior work from the summer solstice, June 21, performed at Humboldt Park.
These walking performances parallel physical endurance with the celestial journey of the sun as it travels across the sky. In these works, Shellabarger repeats seemingly mundane activities to the limits of his endurance. Since breathing and walking are nearly universal activities, audiences generally have a strong visceral reaction to his performance work.