DETROIT — “Cardboard and clay have run parallel for quite some time,” says artist Shannon Goff of her favorite materials. “Somehow I always await their collision.” These two media are separated into different showrooms in her solo show, Miles to Empty, at Susanne Hilberry Gallery in Ferndale, but they both are subject to Goff’s tendency to test the structural and conceptual limits of her chosen materials, a process she says she’s always enjoyed.
Isolated in the main room, the titular piece, in immaculate white cardboard, is a scale rendering of a Lincoln Continental, which serves as an homage to the artist’s grandfather, as well as an allusion to the decline of the auto industry that once sustained the Detroit Metro region. For most people, a car is a whole object; you don’t think about how many individual components went into it. But here in the Motor City, there exist a vast number of people who have built cars with their own two hands, or are close to someone who has, which leads to a different relationship with automobiles, well beyond status symbols or tools for transportation. Goff describes her creation as “a ghost-rider of sorts, forgotten, forlorn, a fading memory, white with loss.” There is a sense of quietness and reverence that permeates the gallery where it is displayed — perhaps a reflection of the lingering sensitivity many longtime Detroiters feel around the city’s precipitous decline, or perhaps the gallery’s more personal sense of recent loss around its founder Susanne Hilberry, or perhaps just a deep appreciation of the astonishing amount of work that went into building this creation by hand.