Kerry Skarbakka

Antebellum Wallpaper
adhesive vinyl paper, framed photographs  
120” x 96”  

Antebellum Wallpaper is a reproduction of a swatch of actual nineteenth-century wallpaper. Providing the foundation and a way to place the body of work White Noise as a conversation, the wallpaper serves as the backdrop to mount family photos and snapshots from my archive, connecting the controversial storyline directly with my personal history.  

On the wallpaper, approximately 20 framed photos are arranged from what might have been my character’s youth; arranged in a semblance of chronological order. As the boy becomes a man, leaves home and joins the army, signs of identity and indoctrination emerge, implying places and stages where things were missed and begin to fall apart.  

This Land…
Single channel video, 20 min (60 min version available)

This Land… documents a singular 2-day performance: the building of a 24’ x 60’ 4-strand barbed-wire fence on the grounds of the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming. Constructed on aboriginal lands originally inhabited by several Indigenous communities, the fence operates as both a site-specific sculpture and transitory installation. As a performance, the labor-intensive act of building provides intrinsic context and a space for visual tension, as does my identity as the builder—a white male. Taking further consideration of place, the type of landscape, and resources of the property enclosed, the fence carries a complex web of meaning, deeply connected to our social, political, and environmental divisions. 

I acknowledge with respect that the land on which I created this work is situated on the aboriginal land of several Indigenous communities, including the Cheyenne, Crow, and Lakota nations. Indigenous people continue to live in this area and practice their teachings and lifeways. Today, this region remains an important place for many Indigenous peoples.

The works presented are part of an ongoing critique of toxic white masculinity entitled White Noise. An evolving multi-media installation, the compilation of work characterizes the downward spiral of a fictional white male. As both artist and subject, the work conveys an alternative version of a life that could have been. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction, construction and documentation, White Noise is predicated upon my story that began with growing up in an authoritarian Evangelical household on a small farm outside Pulaski, Tennessee (the birthplace of the KKK) and eventually enlisting in the US Army. Over the years, I’ve put in a painstaking amount of work into overcoming my conservative upbringing and religious encoding. White Noise is an admission of bias, privilege and systemic racism. Furthermore, it drives attention to the destructive messaging and deep-seated cultural influences that aid in creating white toxicity.

The work is made possible by support from The Oregon Arts Commission and the Ford Family Foundation, The School of Arts and Communication and College of Liberal Arts at Oregon State University.