When we were in Binghamton, NY, my sister Leslie and I went to the Orzio Salati Studio & Gallery at 204 State Street, part of a block of artist venues downtown. We went because our late father knew a guy named Charlie McGill. Charles McGill, who graduated from high school in Binghamton in 1982, must have been Charlie’s son or nephew. The statue, BTW, is a rather good likeness of the artist.

“For the 18 years [Charles] wrestled with the golf bag. He found it to be a ‘very political object due to its its historical associations with class inequality and racial injustice.” The country club had been so long the dominion of people of a certain demographics that, more than once, McGill, an avid golfer, was mistaken for a caddie.

We know all of this this because Salati, the curator, but also McGill’s friend and fellow artist, told us. He explained that McGill’s work was both a physical and mental struggle. Physical because the golf bag is generally well constructed, with leather, steel reinforcement, hard plastic form and rivets. The piece below is Tondos (from the Italian rotondo – round).

Sometimes, he didn’t deconstructed the golf bag, but amplified the message, such as the Three Kings bag with images of Martin Luther King Jr., Rodney King, and King Kong.

Unfortunately, the planned show for Charles McGill in his hometown became a memorial exhibit, as the artist died from metastasized kidney cancer in July 2017. The pieces are all on loan from various galleries.

And, as is often the case, his work was increasingly being recognized for “making a bold statement” and going for far more money than it had just months earlier. Rondos, for instance, is now going for $30,000.

The show continues through the end of October 2017, Saturday from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. and by appointment (607 772-6725).

2 Responses to “Charles McGill and the politics of the golf bag”

  • Cecily says:

    Earlier today I had the opportunity to visit this exhibit. Repurposing can be a brilliant, artful use of materials in our overstuffed culture. The works range from inventive to intensely political, made poignant by McGill’s early death. I’m grateful that Roger recommended this.

    On a video accompanying the exhibit, the concept of McGill “owning” the golf bag (in the way Andy Warhol “owns” Campbell’s soup cans) was discussed. I, for one, will never again look at a golf bag without reflecting on this inspiring artwork.

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