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Domestic Reflections: Smashed Glass Assemblage by Mo Ringey

July 3 - October 14, 2007


Vintage household appliances covered with hundreds of colorful pieces of broken tempered glass is on view from July 3 through October 14, 2007 at the Museum of Fine Arts in the exhibition Domestic Reflections: Smashed Glass Assemblage by Mo Ringey.

Ringey began working in glass about 12 years ago when her car window was smashed outside her Boston apartment, a fate common to many cars in her neighborhood. "Every morning I stepped over a fresh pile of someone else's window remnants, hardly giving it a thought," she explained. "Strangely, the fact that I was the victim this time made my own personal pile of glass look quite brilliant and hopeful." She saved the broken pieces and eventually made a vase. The project so inspired her that she went on to develop a technique for working with broken window shards.

Included in the exhibition are a transformed wringer washing machine, two refrigerators, a toaster, a mailbox and other ordinary domestic objects that evoke memories from her childhood. Ringey, whose website name is "fridgequeen," describes these vintage objects as "bookmarks to a past place and time. I see the process of adding glass as 'psychic reupholstering' that turns a fridge into a jewelry box, a washing machine into a cooler, repurposing them into quixotic things."

Ringey, a resident of Holyoke, Mass., received her B.A. from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has also studied photography, graphic design, and watercolor. She has exhibited her work in more than 20 group and solo shows, including the Worcester Art Museum, the Northampton Center for the Arts, and the Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts.



by Mo Ringey

I was mainly a painter until a random act of vandalism presented a challenge and challenged my course. I began working in tempered glass about 11 years ago when my car window was smashed outside my apartment in Boston. I had been expecting this day. Every morning I stepped over a fresh pile of someone else's window remnants, someone else's problem, hardly giving it a thought. Strangely, the fact that I was the victim this time made my own personal pile of glass look quite brilliant and hopeful. I gathered and saved the pieces and eventually made a small sculpture. This project so inspired me that I have spent the years since experimenting with various invented techniques for working with smashed tempered glass shards.

I was especially drawn to the challenge of creating with such a random and unpredictable material. Tempered glass is commonly known as safety glass and is made to resist breaking. Perhaps this is part of the allure; the challenge of breaking the unbreakable and then putting it back together to create a beautiful and meaningful whole, from the wreckage.

Smashed glass is often associated with accident, crime, vandalism, perhaps violence. I see it as a metaphor for that part of all of us, the residue of past trauma and pain. We hardly notice other people's smashed glass and step gingerly over it, yet we see our own. We are all composed of fragments of our past experiences, present lives, hopes and dreams; amalgamated by hope, healing, adjustment. By using this medium to create something new is, for me, a metaphor for the never-ending evolutionary process that is a human life.

My recent work is a series of sculptural self-portraits with a certain quixotic fixity of purpose. All the pieces are assemblages - representations of fragments of memories. I use domestic objects and appliances as the base because they are part of my own domestic history. Each of these objects represents a set of memories or a bookmark to a place in my past, mostly those of my self as it evolved as part of my family and particularly as part of my grandparents' household. We have an unspoken and rarely pondered language with which we interact with the objects that form the backdrop of our daily lives, the things which we take for granted. I grew up fascinated with the objects of my grandparents' house which for me was refuge and museum, of a sort.

The objects I use all appear at my door unbidden, making my work fate-based. Friends bring washers and vacuum cleaners; strangers hear about my work and call or email with offerings from their basement or their grandmother's house. Sometimes objects just appear on my doorstep, hopeful. They somehow find me; to me they come calling for a psychic reupholstering, begging to be transformed.

The domestic aspect of my sculptures is an homage to an era when women had few options and so the avocation of many was, "Domestician", for lack of choice. Had I announced, circa 1940, that I refused to iron the family's clothes and, that I further intended to spend the next few months smashing glass and gluing it to the ironing board and iron, thus rendering them useless, I might have been committed to an institution. Perhaps a lot of my work is a retroactive double dare. Yet my work almost mirrors the very domestic work it seems to chide; I spend hours over my ironing board, weary and sore; I sit with a tub of water grouting it, a rag tied around my head to keep the sweat and hair out of my eyes; I wear rubber gloves to protect my hands; and long ago I put aside my overalls and lab jackets, finding the perfect studio gear to be an apron.

My objects bring with them the secrets of past lives; having been privy to many persons and dramas; lives lived and possibly unlived. While I will never know their secrets, they prove an ability to assert themselves and control their aesthetic destiny. Often project will resist all precise aesthetic planning and will assert themselves in such a way as to defy all goals, evolving instead into something unconceived. Having learned to acquiesce to this will, my work has benefited and evolved thusly, for now their secret ambitions are revealed and their destiny as art is fulfilled. Explaining this to viewers makes my art all the more enticing, appealing to a universal wonder and curiosity at the animate aspect of inanimate objects.

The tale of Pinocchio is a classic example of this fascination, being a tale that has endured since 1883, and whose original audience was intended for adults, drawing from classical sources, such as Homer and Dante. The world was so taken by this tale of an object which not only came to life, but faced such harsh realities of survival such as the need for food and shelter and the basic necessities of daily life, that even though Pinocchio died a gruesome death in the original iteration of the tale, it was adapted for children and its fascinating allegory resonates still. And so, I often refer to my work as the adoption of, and psychic nurturing and reupholstering of, the objects that ask it of me; appearing at my door in a metaphorical basket. That they then go on to delight and amuse is to me a fulfillment of their aspirations and causes me much joy.

My work is influenced by everyday life, past and present, Gustav Klimt, Vincent Van Gogh, Marcel Duchamp and the craquelure of the Song Dynasty.


(above: Mo Ringey, Narcissivision, 2005, Philco television, stained tempered glass, sanded grout, glass doorknobs, neon, and mirror.)


(above: Mo Ringey, Diner Stools, 2004, Diner stools, stained tempered glass, sanded grout, leather)


(above: Mo Ringey, Self-Portrait, Fridge, 2004, Refrigerator, stained tempered glass, sanded grout )

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