By Kristine Sherred
A full year past, we reflect on that which once was, that which persists, that which may be. Lilly McElroy’s second solo exhibition at Thomas Robertello Gallery honors 2009, a year that, for many, typifies economic unrest, unemployment and home loss. Even for those of us unscathed, a new year carries new possibilities, new responsibilities, and McElroy urges us to reflect on a year’s worth of hardships with the quips of another. She set up a website (aroughyear.com) to solicit others’ images, stories and jokes that epitomize their most painful moment, or in some cases, their triumphant reclamation.
McElroy describes her artistic mission as an interactive attempt to make a connection with her audience, and she is accustomed to participatory art. Her inspiration for soliciting photographs, she says, may have emanated from a past project for which she asked her mother to photograph twenty-four reasons why she loves her, using nothing more than a disposable camera.
User-generated content leaves the end result a bit, well, open-ended: “I was expecting so many more images of home and job loss,” McElroy says, “but I was actually really surprised about [the stories of] heartbreak. For people who weren’t experiencing those economic stresses,  was equally rough but in a very different way. It made the project much more interesting and much more complicated.”
McElroy spread the word of her developing project by posting ads in Craigslist and Coffee News, distributing flyers to cafes, “emailing anybody who had ever emailed me about anything,” she laughs, and even snail-mailing strangers chosen at random from old phone books. “I got a lot of responses asking who I was,” but her breadth of personal connections and that of friends and family catalyzed the project’s dissemination, fashioning a potent spiderweb chronicling a year in the life. Read the rest of this entry »