Michelle Mechanic was born and raised in New Jersey. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Glass from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2002. After a number of student, and post graduate exhibitions, she took time off to work for a not for profit educational program for low income children, and at a criminal defense firm in the Bronx, New York. She attended, and received a Juris Doctor from Rutgers School of Law-Newark in 2007, where she focused her studies primarily on criminal law, taxation and tax policy. She is licensed to practice law in New York, New Jersey and the Federal Courts. Michelle worked as an Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office until December, 2008. Following this, she opened a private law practice and began conceiving of, and making art again. Today she is a part time criminal and transactional lawyer and actively producing, among others, the works displayed presently.
I have always been preoccupied with the idea of the attempt: The attempt of the artist at creating a meaningful discourse, American society’s attempt to understand and perfect itself through art and other societal vehicles, and the artist’s attempt at engaging an imperfect society in that discourse. The success or failure of the attempt is not essential, but what is essential, is that it occurs at all. Since I am an artist who happens to be a lawyer, I presently use the legal format and system in my own attempt to engage the viewer in a dialogue about systemic social impossibilities and injustices. Hopefully, the interdisciplinary approach to my work creates a more meaningful and articulate dialogue my viewer, and with a broader audience. My newer work addresses penal versus moral indictment and criminalization, the polarity of physical freedoms within classes, and legal versus actual ownership of ideas. I don’t expect to change society by creating these works. Instead, I hope to engage the viewer in a way that will raise their own questions about our society, and whether it functions in a universally applicable and equitable manner. My current body of work is primarily law related, but it will, more likely than not, evolve and change as I become preoccupied with different ideas. I often insert myself into the work. This is because most of what I do is project based. As such, I am an essential part of the process, and consequently, an essential part of the final product.
Thank you for sending me a message.
In most states, to live in low income housing, one must forego your fourth amendment right to privacy (search and seizure). Furthermore, the poorer the area is, the higher the police presence. As a young ADA, I assisted in prosecuting and investigating between twenty-five and seventy arrests for criminal trespass, daily. Many were false or frivolous. Here, I trespassed twenty-four times within a twenty-four hour span. I forensically lifted my finger prints from each scene, photographically documented each act, and preserved them between glass slides. I also drafted and executed a duly sworn confession, formatted after a New York criminal complaint. This document is essential to legally corroborate my criminal acts. I attempt to show that as a white woman in a suburban environment, I have markedly more freedomto move about without obstruction, than a minority in a poor area. I committed 24 violations, 20 misdemeanors, and at least two felonies. I was never stopped, questioned or arrested.
In the Confessions I. and II. I have engraved, duly executed criminal complaints against myself, for acts of moral turpitude, which are not punishable by law. In “Confessions I.” I charged myself with “one count of cruelty in the First (1st) degree, for being “Cruel to Christopher.” In” Confession II.” I charged myself with innumerable lies in the second degree (2nd). Each piece is priced pursuant to the cost of therapy necessary to overcome the the aftermath of these acts.
I have been researching and planning the execution of this piece since 2006. Although I was reluctant to make what could be perceived as “insider art,” I have been committed to executing this piece. In “Patent Pending” I attempt to infringe on and replicate Yves Klein’s formula for his patented color International Klein Blue (IKB). It has been an interesting and difficult process. With Each attempt, I paint a canvas, and document the attempt. Klein’s French and International patent is not for the color itself. It contains a method of suspending ultramarine pigment in a polyvinyl acetate compound. Lore has circulated about whether or not Klein added glass or other compounds to thicken the paint and properly suspend the pigment. IKB is often used and replicated both privately and commercially, but the actual patented method is not.
I have researched the legality of this process for several years and made several attempts to use his patented method at creating IKB. The process has been incredibly difficult. While researching the formula for polyvinyl acetate or “rhodopas,” several formulae have been published. The attempt at successfully infringing on this work has been both arduous and humorous. One published formula turned out to be incorrect, and was in fact, the formula for artificial pineapple. Like an old fashioned recipe, I have discovered that Klein omitted several essential ingredients from his patent, which,, accordingly, calls into question the legitimacy of the original patent, itself. I have finally produced, what is, in my best estimate, an approximately accurate replication of the color. Upon perfecting his method, and or improving it, I will domestically and internationally patent the method and color as “International Mechanic Blue” (MIB).
In 2006, I conceived of and drafted a proposal for “The Departmental Elective Provision”: legislative proposal. In it, I propose a tax compliance system allowing the taxpayer to electronically earmark the proposed fiscal budget for the upcoming year, on a first come first serve basis. It also provides for a yearly report showing taxpayers’, to promote transparence between legislators and their constituents. In “Purchase Agreement,” the first purchaser may buy the proposal and the rights to the idea (the ability to say he or she thought of it) for one million dollars, thereby making the purchaser an integral part of the art itself. A full document containing the text of the proposal is available upon request. The piece is intended to be viewed as displayed below.
Here, I pair the image of children selling beverages for $5.00 per drink, with an image of a woman selling goods on the street, for two for $1.00. One of the most iconic American images is that of children selling lemonade or juice on a nice day. It is something we celebrate, smile at and cherish. Ironically, it is illegal in most states to sell a beverage, food or any good other than "fine art," without a legal vendors' license. Consequently, numerous people are arrested every day when they try to sell fruits, beverages or wares on the sidewalk. I have had the sad experience of prosecuting people for this offense while working as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx. On one hand, we have a frivolity that we accept and cherish, while on the other, we have an act of necessity, and an attempt at the "American Dream" which we penalize and vilify. In this pairing, I call this systemic incongruity into question. The faces of the offenders are manually hidden to preserve their identities. Further, I hand wrote the New York Administrative Code citation for the offense on the frame.
Center on Contemporary Art
June 1st - June 21st, 2011
"The Garden Statement"
Kean University, NJ
September 12th - November 23rd, 2012