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Interviewed May 10, 2004
by J

Julie E. Manso
P.O. Box 73
East Killingly, CT 06243

Carl Dunn
104 Island Rd.
Dayville, CT 06241

      Photos from their show, Castles of Industry, at AS220 in January, 2004
Gregg Anderson
Cristina di Chiera
Erik Gould
Kathleen Griffin
Elizabeth Keithline
Scott Lapham
Rafael Lyons
Julie Manso and Carl Dunn
the Men of Letters
Rag and Bone Bindery
Howie Snieder
Herb Weiss
Cliff Wood
May Yao

A little simple background info... type of work, schooling, place in New England where you do most of your work.

J.M.: I graduated from The Hallmark Institute of Photography in 1997 and have been working as a commercial photographer since. I’d have to say my type of creative work is broad, I’ve worked on projects involving old work mills, and I’m currently working on various projects including cemeteries, old drive-ins and local rock bands just to name a few. Most of my work comes from the small towns I’m familiar with in Northeast Connecticut, Mass and Rhode Island. New England is a very interesting place with so much history to explore, it’s amazing, there’s nothing like it.

C.D.: I was born in NYC, I attended Stuyvesant high school and studied illustration at Parson’s School of Design. My work has been published in various magazines such as Rolling Stone, The Progressive, The New Yorker, etc. I’ve been spending my summers in NE CT since 1970 and moved there permanently in 1996.

What is your own personal attraction to these abandoned spaces?

J.M.: I’ve been interested in dilapidated buildings since I can remember, predominantly the 19th century textile mills. Living in a has-been mill town all my life, I guess they’ve grown on my conscience and have become an important subject for my work. The Primm Mill, formerly Sayles, is the mill that gave me the compassion I have for the mills today. I lived right down the street from the Primm Mill all my life and despite the broken windows and scattered debris that left most people contemptuous toward the building, I harbored a love for it’s immensity and looming mysteriousness over our little town. There’s a feeling you get when you enter a building that’s been alive for so long, an overwhelming sense of life, as if the building itself has taken on the burden of the people who worked there. I mean it’s nice to see a mill building that’s been restored, but the ones that are falling down, the ones that are beat…there’s something poetic about that.

C.D.: There’s something eerie about a building that was once the focal point of a community looming over that community derelict and without any practical significance. The fact that most of these buildings were constructed in the 19th century is also very appealing to me I love the architectural esthetic of that time period. NE seems to me to be an entire region trapped in that century.

Does your eye inform the subject, or does the subject inform your eye? Are you documenting, or are you taking your sensibilities and making something new or romanticized?

J.M.: I think maybe a little of both. There are times when I can see an abstract vision and I run with it, like the beautiful marriage between the mechanical and the organic, but mainly I feel the structures themselves are the art and I’m there to manipulate angles and light to better the experience for the viewer. I feel as if I am leaning towards documenting more than I am creating something new, but I like to think my eye behind the camera is unique, not just a straight shot merely for historical reference.

C.D.: My work outside this project is primarily figurative, but I think those paintings and my mill paintings are stylistically cohesive. In that respect, I suppose my eye informs the subject. However, exploring these abandoned mills has given me a perspective I could not have obtained otherwise. The paintings are not depictions of specific mills but are an effort to convey the experience of being in the presence of these structures.

It seems that you both bring something a little different to the table while approaching a similar subject. Is there one overarching idea that you hoped people would take away from the show?

J.M.: No, not really. We simply hoped to share with people the mutual appreciation we have for these buildings.

What other projects have you collaborated on?

J.M.: Although this project isn’t technically collaborative because each piece is either by one person or the other, we are collaborating on a book of fictitious insects, and in the summer hope to make an animated movie using discarded machine parts. This last show, Castles of Industry, was a mentally collaborative vision, and yet remained idiosyncratic to our own styles. I was responsible for the photographs and Carl did paintings and mixed media assemblages.

Care to talk about the motivation behind some of these other projects?

J.M.: We've been friends for about ten years and have always shared ideas and interests with each other. We started brainstorming together awhile back about different projects that may have potential. We're hoping the bug book will most likely be next; it's sort of a fictional field guide so to speak. Insects with bad manners, complete with a photo of the insect and a write-up of it's origin, habitat and behavioral patterns. We both see humor in what is disturbing or frightening, I guess you could say that's our motivation – the shock value and the hilarity in it. We're hoping the book will be close to fruition sometime in the fall.

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