This Mad Attachment: The Burdocks Project - 2010 - 2017
Driscoll-McMahon walked around town in a suit made of burdock, transforming herself into a kind of untouchable. Amy Griffin, reporter for the Times Union
Elmira kids call us rednecks because we're from here. Nicole Vrooman
What is a redneck (the stereotype?)
Stupid, brusque, racist, sexist, homophobic...gun-crazed...eager to go to war...toothless...fat...lazy.... Aurelio Catano
Maria Driscoll McMahon dons a suit covered with burdocks-burrs collected from cow pastures, road-side ditches and abandoned city lots and takes to rural roads and city streets. On foot or astride a mobility scooter, McMahon surprises patrons in taverns, discount stores, museums and universities.
The unlikely sculpting medium of burdocks-burrs is muse and metaphor for the rural condition, but also the human condition. Usually found growing in distressed soil, burdocks are most often felt before they are seen clinging to one's body like a needy acquaintance or an unwanted crush. They are the invisible made monstrous to confuse your eye, ravage your hair and lay waste your fine clothes.
The seemingly absurd elements of McMahon's work puncture received ideas of unsophisticated rural life. Through videotaped interviews, she engages with people on the streets and during exhibitions of her multi-disciplinary work about their experiences as holders or subjects of urban and rural stereotypes. It is her assertion that these stereotypes fuel the culture wars. McMahon's performance, video, sculpture and drawing seeks to name, deconstruct and ultimately defuse cross-cultural tensions through equal parts humor and seriousness, honesty and respect.
When I added "the rural experience" to themes to be addressed in my artwork nearly twenty years ago, there was scant attention given to rural stereotypes and their psycho-socio-political implications. Thanks to reality television (think Honey Boo Boo and Co.), the "hillbilly" (commonly used interchangeably with "hick," "hillbilly," "white trash" or simply rural folk) has regained prominence as a noxious pop-culture icon, rendering my work now timely.
My work is an attempt to start a conversation in order to better understand the class and power dynamics that feed hate, polarize people and fuel the infamous culture wars. These tensions, manipulated through ugly politics and talk radio, ultimately impact policy on everything from the very real "war on women," civil rights, LGBT rights, climate change and the environment, health care, immigration, war and torture and, of course, gun laws. For me, the stereotype - be it directed toward people of color, the LGBT community, women, the physically challenged, or the rural poor - may very well be the insurmountable barrier in creating a world that works.