Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ward Sanders' Glimpses of an Imaginary Past

by Robert Boyd

Ward Sanders is a San Antonio artist who has had four solo shows at Hooks Epstein. Full disclosure: I bought a piece by Sanders at his last show. His work involves getting old wooden boxes or containers and filling them with scraps of paper and objects. The result is a tiny collection of objects that seem to tell a story of recall a forgotten time or place. They are all backward-looking--reliquaries for an imagined past. This time around, Sanders has added a literary element to it.


Ward Sanders, The Death of New Orleans, assemblage, 2011

I was lucky enough to speak to Sanders at the opening. I told him the combination of deliberate, artificial archaicism with a sense of mystery reminded of the writing of Jorge Luis Borges. I mentioned the story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," in which a group of bibliophiles stumbles first across evidence of an unknown (fictional) country hidden in an encyclopedia, then a whole world, Tlön, which they come to realize is slowly taking over our world--even though it is completely fictional.

Ward Sanders, The Stars of Home, assemblage, 2011

This lead us into a conversation about literature that brings a fictional reality into the "real world"--he mentioned Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino as a major influence. We spoke of George Saunders, Will Self, and Flannery O'Connor. He talked about how David Eagleman's Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives had influenced this current show, as had his readings on fossils and paleontology.