Industrial Harvest

The Four Mystics by sarah kavage

The Four Mystics

This image appeared repeatedly in Piazza’s archives.  The text reads, “there is an old Jewish tradition which tells of four mystics who ‘entered the garden,’ as the trance state is called.  Only one emerged in peace.  Of the other three, one went mad, another died, and a third took up magic.”   

Given the way he approached his artwork – a combination of modern-day mysticism, surrealism and achemy, Piazza must have related to this image.  Upon seeing it, it’s hard not to wonder about oneself, especially if you are prone to fits of inspiration and other such trancelike states.  Piazza seemed to be especially focused on the madness angle – he had a show called “On Preparations for Madness” and designed an ‘OPM’ logo that regularly appeared on stationery and other publications.  Art and insanity go together, it’s true, but the thing is, Piazza did not go mad.  He was the one that died young.  

I know that’s a little dark.  But this image has stuck with me ever since I saw it in the archives, I just don’t know how else to say the above, and my point is that you go into that place never knowing how it will affect you, but knowing that it will.

Selections from the Piazza Archive – an introduction by sarah kavage

I was touched and honored to be selected as InCUBATE’s Michael Piazza resident.  Piazza (1955-2006) seemed to inhabit many worlds at once – producing work that is mystical and layered with symbolism, yet remaining incredibly grounded in the reality in which we live, never (as Kurt Vonnegut so eloquently put it) “disappearing up his own asshole.” Piazza was a tireless advocate for, and investigator of, forgotton people and places.

As part of the residency, I get access to his archives, which his longtime friend and collaborator Jim Duignan of the Stockyard Institute dropped off the other day.  The archives consisted of three large three-ring binders full of scanned ephemera (letters, exhibition catalogs, event programs), and an old suitcase filled with originals. 

my other laptop - the piazza suitcase archive

Although I never knew Piazza – or heard of his work – until I found out about the residency, I feel like he’s an old friend.  Perhaps that’s a bit of a cliche, but I see so many of my people – and myself – in the collections of strange objects, old diagrams, and xeroxed booklets that it’s unnerving and pretty emotional at times. 

As I go through the archive, I’ll be posting some of my favorite selections here. 

I also feel compelled to say that I get the feeling that Piazza would want me to tell you that life is short, people!  Stop messing around and get out there and do what you need to do.