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Shaun O'Boyle
Rail Lines

Shaun O'Boyle,Green Mill, Monroe, MA, Archival Pigment Print, 2010/2012,
Signed Recto.

Artist Statement
I see the landscape as a place that accumulates memories, an aggregate of the events that have occurred in that place. The landscape is a precise result of its own history, a datum on which past events have been recorded.

The rail lines are of interest because of their strong ties to the development of cities and industries across the country. They provide a path through the landscape where human history and culture are concentrated. Traveling along the rail lines provides access to cities and towns which owe their existence to the rail. These rail side areas reveal places layered with history—older buildings and structures can be discovered like fossils amid newer layers of strata.

Getting a fix on the present landscape is a challenge. It is a complex, continually changing place influenced by many sources. It is common to find row houses with no factories nearby, new roads paved through crumbling mill ruins, empty city centers with teeming malls at the perimeter, and abandoned mills standing next to new office parks. The shift of industries away from these small cities is in evidence everywhere. Yet there is something exquisite about the presence of these places. There is an opportunity to experience history and the present moment at the same time.

A recurring experience during this project is seeing things left by previous generations—old buildings, structures, old walls, mounds on the landscape—without stories attached to explain them. They are dislocated bits of history without a narrative. Much of my work explores things that still occupy a place on the landscape, but which have lost their references. They drift in the present, defining a vague sense of the past without an explicit narrative. They don’t tell a history per se, but invoke a mood and conjure images by their presence, they indicate events, encouraging stories and myths to finish the incomplete structures.

Artist Bio
Shaun O’Boyle (b.1959) was raised in Berkshire County in western Massachusetts. He received his BFA in Architecture and Industrial Design from Parsons School of Design in New York City in 1987. His photographs of Bethlehem Steel were featured in the July − August 2008 issue of Lenswork, and his book Modern Ruins: Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region was published in 2010. He designs and self-publishes a number of books of other projects, including Bethlehem Steel, The Boatyard, Bazaar, Kennedy Space Center, and The Asylum.