A deep amethyst wallpaper patterned with interwoven vines and florals now covers the once-subdued walls at Proof on Main.
Where other bars in town might hang sports memorabilia, portraits in ornate frames line the walls. Their presentation ranges in tone and topic, while their subjects vary from the anonymous to household names like Kentuckian Kim Davis. The Rowan County clerk catapulted to national stardom in 2015 for her staunch refusal to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
This installation, created by the artist duo Fallen Fruit, is called “The Practices of Everyday Life.” It’s a colorful, immersive experience that explores people and places using source material from architectural salvage yards, historical images, personal diaries, amateur films and ephemera from Louisville and Southern Indiana. Constructed from dozens of individual photographs, texts and objects, Fallen Fruit’s research-based work is intended to celebrate the culture of place.
David Burns and Austin Young, the artists behind Fallen Fruit, explore and transform places and narrative histories at the intersections of public and private spaces. They say they find inspiration from the information people leave behind.
Upon arriving to Kentucky, Burns and Young began raiding the shelves of the University of Louisville archives, the public libraries, the Carnegie Art and History Center, as well personal archives.
“We met this guy, David Williams, who has this incredible collection of photos from 1970 through the ’90s, and he basically kept all his lovers and friends in different boxes by year,” Young says.
As he and Burns began sifting through the boxes, a story unfolded.
“And those kinds of stories come together — what we actually loosely call ‘history,’” Burns says. “It is not one person’s view, it is a lot of people’s lives that make something historic.”
Many of Williams’ photos made it into the space, alongside images of notable citizens including Henrietta Bingham, David Williams and Stephen Irwin.
However, not all the culture represented in “The Practices of Everyday Life” is meant to be celebrated.
For example, the red dogwood blooms seen in the main dining room’s wallpaper pattern reference a Cherokee creationist myth, while the framed artworks hanging in the space represent the pre-contact culture of the region prior to 18th century European settlement. Taxidermy bison busts hang near the restaurant windows — a reference to the erasure of Native American heritage.
“I think it’s important to recognize all facets of a history of a place,” 21c Museum Director Alice Gray Stites says. “It plays into that theme of the public.”
The concept of “public” is an idea that Burns says the duo explores fully throughout this installation.
“What is interesting about the work here is that we really got to think about how there are so many different kinds of public who share a street or share a sidewalk, or a moment in history or a context,” he says.
“The Practices of Everyday Life” is free and open to the public. It will be on display at Proof on Main through 2018.