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 lives in Westport, Ct and her work continues to be informed by ideas of systemic incongruity but has also evolved into ideas of domesticity, subjugation and complacency.
I am preoccupied with 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, whereas its occurrence absolutely is. Since I am an artist who happens to be a lawyer, I often use the legal format and system to engage the viewer in various dialogues. Hopefully, my interdisciplinary approach creates a more informed and articulate dialogue with the viewer, and also with a broader audience. Several works address penal versus moral indictment, the polarity of physical freedoms within classes, and legal versus actual ownership of ideas. I do not expect to change society by creating these works. However, I aim to propt the viewer’s own questions about these issues. My larger body of work is primarily law and societal systems, but it has evolved as I become preoccupied with different ideas, and moved to a uniquely bucolic town. 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. I also paint anthropomorphic birds in my private time for no other reason that I am mysteriously compelled to do so. Unlike my other work, these are spontaneous and outward expression of my internal perceptions and emotions. I also like bird’s nests, but I have yet to complete a piece that I am pleased with such that I will show it to the public.
Thank you for sending me a message.
In most states, to live in low income housing, one must forfeit their 4th 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 committed trespass related crimes twenty-four times within a twenty-four hours. I forensically lifted my finger prints from each scene, photographically documented each act, and forensically preserved them between glass slides. I further executed a duly sworn confessions for the State of NY and the State of NJ. This document is essential to formally corroborate my criminal acts. This shows that as white upper-class woman, I have markedly more freedom 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. The piece is prices according to estimated bail.
In the Confessions I. and II. I 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 based on the cost of therapy necessary to overcome the shame and guilt I harbor for these acts.
I often ask myself, “What is creative ownership?” Is it truly possible to exclusively own a creative process?” Consequently, I have been researching, planning and executing this piece since 2006. Although I was reluctant to make what could be perceived as “insider art,” I have been committed to this piece because of the potential questions and conversations it could facilitate. In “Patent Pending” I attempt to infringe on and replicate Yves Klein’s formula for his patented color International Klein Blue (IKB). 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 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,” I learned several formulae have been published. The infringement has been both arduous and humorous. One published formula turned out to be incorrect, and was in fact, the formula for artificial pineapple. I discovered that Klein omitted several essential ingredients from his patent, which thereby, undermines the legitimacy of his patent. I have finally produced what is, in my best estimate, an approximately accurate replication of the color. However, I am not finished. 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.Again, What is an original idea, and who can claim it at as their own? I developed and drafted a proposal for “The Departmental Elective Provision”: A legislative proposal. In this academic paper and art work, I propose a tax compliance system which allows 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’ selections to promote transparency between legislators and their constituents. In “Purchase Agreement,” the first purchaser may buy the proposal and the rights to the idea 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, and is priced at fair market value, unlike the right to the idea, which is substantially more.
Here, I paired 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. We celebrate it, smile at it and cherish it. 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, countless low-income people are arrested in urban environments daily for selling fruits, beverages or wares in public. 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 criminalize. In this diptych, I ask the viewer to question and examine this systemic incongruity. The faces of the offenders are hidden to preserve their privacy. I also 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