Matthew C. Shackelford
11/2020 – 4/2021
Castor is a new body of work that begins with a childhood event in the microbiome in which artist Matthew Shackelford grew up, and from there builds a world to stage investigation and critique of the ways that adjacent regional lands are now being developed and environmentally disrupted on a wide scale.
Little Elk Creek, in Upper Oxford Township, Pennsylvania (near to Street Road) was, in the early 1990s, a small tributary of East Branch Big Elk Creek. It ran through the land in the backyard of Shackelford's childhood home, and was populated by a small family of beavers, who maintained an impressive dam that kept the stream deep and the forest healthy. Wildlife was plentiful. That is, until the year 2000, when residents nearby made the unfortunate decision to trap the beavers and bulldoze the dam. The stream drained to mere inches instead of feet, the health of the stream changed, and the fauna reflected this.
Through interactive sculpture and new media installations, Shackelford's Castor traces ways that this localized story and experience represents and telescopes into the story of wider current and potential hazards surrounding the oil pipeline running through the same land, as well as several other historical events of environmental catastrophe that have occurred in Chester County, Pennsylvania as a whole. At the age of 19 Shackelford moved away from this region, traveling and studying in the U.S. and Europe for a decade, only to return to a Southeastern Pennsylvania transformed. Rural tranquility had been replaced with big box marts, pipelines, and water companies. Forests and farms had been replaced with housing developments.
This work and exhibition ruminate on the story of this land, and project us toward other more considered and more connective, less destructive, potential futures.
Matthew C. Shackelford is a native of Chester County, raised right on Street Road, the arterial from which Street Road Artists' Space is takes its name. Currently he is completing his MFA with the Film and Media Arts Department at Temple University in Philadelphia. As a direct result of the destruction of Little Elk Creek, Matthew chose to study biology, earning his associate's degree, and continued to work on environmental issues while completing a BFA in New Media Fine Art at Northern Kentucky University. Matthew's current practice explores the possibilities new media offers as a means to increase accessibility to the arts. He does not focus on an individual medium but instead works with a blend of media to further the subliminal stimuli of the message and to create a multi-layered experience for the audience. After Castor, Matthew will be seeking an artist residency in Taipei's Artist Village for the summer of 2021.