Reviews

From Metropolis, November 1996/Community by Darcy Cosper

Not long ago, public art was seen as an alienating presence in urban neighborhoods. Now it's something people care about and participate in. Merry Conway and Noni Pratt have a keen understanding of art's unique power to communicate and engage; their highly sophisticated yet profoundly accessible performance/installations seem to hew to Oscar Wilde's maxim that "Art should never try to be popular. The public should try to make itself more artistic." Their ability to engage people individually and personally produced astonishing results in Too Close To Home, a project about father-daughter relationships that was created in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1994. The performance took place in an abandoned savings bank, the planned site of a new museum. Conway and Pratt were invited to create a piece that would draw attention to the museum prior to its renovation, demonstrating to skeptical city officials that art could be relevant to the lives of residents of New Bedford, which Conway describes as a sometimes rough, largely working-class city. And, as Conway says, they "hustled". They made friends with people at the diner where they had lunch, at the hardware store, and on the street, asking any and all for contributions to the "highly eccentric personal museum" they were putting together. They didn't want money, they wanted stuff. They were more than willing: more than 100 people from the area loaned a wild variety of personal ephemera for the installation -- eyeglasses, prom photos, saw blades, dolls, golf clubs, boots, any kind of object that might evoke a memory. In addition to notions about what is public and private, Conway says they were working with the idea of the home as museum, "the value of a million little homes." By emphasizing the intimacy of the collected objects, the project became a physical manifestation of the inner life of the community and of commonalities that linked people's individual homes and lives. The installation, when it opened, was well attended and well received.

from Conway & Pratt at the Vault Building Art in America December 1994 by Ann Wilson Lloyd

Vintage bank buildings, especially in small towns, seem to exude patriarchal authority. The New York installation/performance team Conway & Pratt crashed in on this with their recent project Too Close to Home, An Exploration of “Daddy’s Little Girl.” The piece was sited throughout a vacant century-old structure that was originally a bank and is slated to become an art museum. . . . [An experience that] wrung every drop of emotional juice from this bittersweet, complex and highly fraught familial bond.

From Installation Viewing Creates Strong Emotional Experience The Standard-Times New Bedford, MA April 23, 1994 by Richard Pacheco

. . . it covers new means of expression with a kind of visual poetry that combines with a theater-like experience. Too Close to Home often proves disarming and disturbing, full of unexpected emotional turns which slice through the psyche like a surgeon’s scalpel, revealing truths about the relationships of fathers and their daughters, at times funny or heartwarming , at other times, chilling. The final result is a wide range of emotions evoked, the work . . . [is] vigorous and compelling.

From Wareham Courier April 28, 1994 by Josh Neimand

Too Close to Home, the inaugural exhibit at the Vault Building in New Bedford, is a sometimes hard-hitting, sometimes endearing look at the relationships of fathers and daughters. Too Close to Home is a startling presentation that takes the viewer from the staid “Leave it to Beaver” world of Ward Cleaver to the disturbing realm of the Roman emperor Caligula. But Too Close to Home is also something definitely not to be missed.