Nancy Dwyer (b. 1954), Welcome, 2016; Silkscreen on fabricated powder-coated aluminum, AP 1/1, edition of five total, 24 x 36 x 2 inches; Gift of the artist, 2017
Nancy Dwyer’s attractive, brightly colored Welcome is shaped like the ubiquitous welcome mat placed at the entrance to many American homes; yet it contains a cleverly disguised, contradictory message—a thinly drawn, thinly veiled threat: KEEP OUT. Her biting criticism delivered in such a spare, but straightforward manner, has characterized her work for decades. She astutely incorporates humor with her sardonic views of social interactions to amplify inequities that defy eradication.
Dwyer co-founded Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center with Charles Clough, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman and Michael Zwack in 1974. During the next decade, she created art from appropriated images, using films, television, newspapers, magazines and other forms of popular culture. Rather than duplicate these images as Pop artists did in the 1960s, she took them out of their original contexts, reducing figures to bold cartoon-like drawings with simplified applications of color. Since the mid-1980s, Dwyer has featured words, puns and irony in her work in socio-political word sculpture and paintings. She has been commissioned to produce site-specific public works of art in the United States and Europe that spell out appropriate messages to their environments.—Nancy Weekly, 2017
At first glance, this sculpture by Nancy Dwyer seems like an invitation as the large letters spelling out WELCOME imitate a doormat that one may find outside a home. Upon closer inspection, the hidden message KEEP OUT is brought to view. Dwyer uses irony to portray a coded message that many immigrants have received throughout history and continued in the current political climate. Despite the hope of feeling welcome, many immigrants and refugees are left feeling isolated and unwanted and struggle to find their place within society.
Does this artwork look like anything you might have at home? Possibly in front of your door? If so, what types of messages or pictures are on your mat? Artist Nancy Dwyer uses wordplay to reveal human faults and insincerity. A welcome mat in front of a door usually greets someone at your home. If you look closely enough, you will find two other words hidden inside the WELCOME. They spell KEEP OUT. Some people who move to another place often have a hard time getting settled. Have you ever moved? Did you make new friends? Did you ever feel left out? Have you welcomed new friends into your home?
Labels by Sarah Drozda
MST 622, Researching & Presenting Museum Collections, 2020