Morgan Thomas Shankweiler

Art. Design. Sociology.

The focus of my work is on how humans connect and relate to each other in physical space, metaphysical space, systemic and social space, emotional space and virtual space, and with how we attach meaning to social choices and to the interactions that alter these choices. I approach my observations of human behavior through a trained sociological lens, utilizing both ethnographic and quantitative analysis, and I approach my artwork similarly, straddling a line between realistically rendered metaphorical work and more abstract data visualization.

A gridded system serves as a scaffold as I experiment with the connection of sets of tiles in two-dimensional ‘puzzles’. The various ‘puzzles’, created and conceived in the studio in the tradition of Wang dominoes and Tesselata, are engaged through aleatoric games that follow prescribed rules. The prescribed rules of the games are inspired by human behavior and can be random, mathematical, metaphorical, or fact-based (often drawn from statistics or sociological theory). The results of these games and puzzles can become the basis for larger mixed medium works or the games and puzzles themselves are the work and serve as a catalyst for community building through interaction with the work.

Form and mark-making meet in the work. The ropes are lines themselves but also have a dimensionality built from repetitive texture-building and rule-following. Physically, ropes are bound by natural laws, but on canvas, these laws can be challenged, and the ropes can take on any form. Ropes are imbued with meanings of their own; they are a tool for security and safety, they are a tool for holding something down against its will, they might bind, they might lift, and when connected they take new form and tension through their interaction; safety nets, networks, internets, a metaphorical fabric of society. Ropes can be unions, but they can also enforce boundaries. Knots can secure or be an obstacle to untangle. The line-work of the individual threads in each cord, the cords twisting or weaving to make a rope, the rope looping with another, knotting, tying, to make a form or a net, compounds a physicality to the image and the rope becomes more than itself. The drawings and paintings are not just still-life, but a map of human connectivity; hands holding, sustained eye contact, a casual conversation about the weather, joined protest, embrace. The tangles represent a community, each knot or loop indicating a human connection that holds a 'net'work of people together. It is the humanity of these connections and the tapestry created through deliberate mark-making that draw me to this work.

Chosen Family; Making Sense of the Loose Ends and Tatters, 2021
Ink, Colored Pencil, Acrylic and Gouache on Paper, 22" x 30"