I had no theories to prove. I merely wanted to try living by my own hands, independent as far as possible from a system of division of labor in which the participant loses most of the pleasure of making and growing things for himself. — Harlan Hubbbard
Shantyboating begins from and returns to Harlan Hubbard's ethos of human dignity through self-determined labor with the central symbol of a shantyboat - a small crude houseboat from times now past. Garner paints allegories of conflict, injustice and resistance. Mules and boats counter hostile ideas about bootstrapping and homelessness. Invasive plants, fish and birds reference economic migration and refugees.
Garner writes, "There is no simple read on the paintings because the territory I cover isn’t simple. Layered, multidirectional narratives ask a lot from people. I promise the works are lucid even when surreal; that’s metaphor at work. I demand my paintings be meaningful. I’m surprised by the beauty that comes about from painting as truthfully as I can about un-beautiful things."
Shantyboating is just one part of "Afloat: An Ohio River Way of Life," a regional celebration of the Ohio River. "Afloat..." was inspired by the works of Kentucky's Thoreau, Harlan Hubbard (1900-1988), and takes place throughout 2019 in several museums, galleries and academic organizations.
The opening reception is concurrent with Currents: Contemporary Artists Along the Banks of the Ohio at Swanson Contemporary, with over a dozen regional contemporary artists reflecting on the Ohio River.
View the show online: